1. Spend time with Family and Friends (preferably sober): While St. Patrick’s Day here in the States has devolved into “hey lets drink green beer” day it is important to remember that in Ireland it is closer in feel to Thanksgiving than Mardi Gras. During Patrick’s day clan and kin were very important. To celebrate this year take some time to honor your friends and family. Strengthen your bonds of kinship and do not let your love grow cold.
2. Seek Reconciliation: Patrick was taken from his family and enslaved for six years by the Irish. In one of the few authentic accounts of his life, Patrick’s Confession, he recalls that during this time his constant companions were hunger and nakedness. It is remarkable that he was able to escape captivity. It is stunning that he would go back and seek to peacefully convert the Irish to Christ.
The ministry of Patrick was the first, and maybe the last, bloodless conversion of a people. There were no Irish martyrs and there were no Irish pagans burned at the stake. The former slave shared the Prince of Peace with his former masters. Patrick lovingly ministered to his “warrior children.” There are probably people in your life that have hurt you or demeaned you in some way. Take some time to forgive them. Don’t seek revenge. It really is better this way.
3. Buy Responsibly: Patrick was an outspoken opponent of the slave trade (for obvious reasons) and as far as we know the first Christian bishop to take a firm stance against it. He was appalled at the laxity he saw in his Christian brothers in Britannia that were turning a blind eye to this practice. Sadly the slave trade and forced labor is still with us and in the spirit of Saint Patrick we should speak the truth to power regarding cheap labor.
Here in the States the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade has its roots in equal rights rallies for Irish immigrants. They were mistreated and exploited in their search for the American dream. In order to ensure that this kind of mistreatment becomes a thing of the past take some time to research where your food, clothing and electronics are coming from. Make choices that favor fair wages and trade.
For more information check out buyresponsibly.org and free2work.org. Free2work has a mobile app that makes responsible purchasing really easy.
4. Learn to love the lost: The Irish were not won over by Patrick’s slick presentation of the 4 Spiritual Laws. To our knowledge he never wrote anything down on a napkin for a stranger or attended an evangelism strategy seminar. We do know that he lived in close proximity to the people he was trying to reach. He ate their food and slept on the floor beside them. He was not afraid of their questions or their threats. He presented “The God of The Three Faces” to them in their language and with their cultural symbols. Patrick won them over with fearless love.
Too often in Christian circles we view people outside the house of faith as the other, the lost, and the damned. They exist to have the gospel shared with them and we are trained to “make the most of every opportunity” at the price of genuine friendship. Are we concerned about the state of their soul? Sure, but if you do not genuinely like the person you are sharing with what is the point? Learn to love all, righteous and unrighteous alike before you whip out the presentation guide. Hide your faith in your heart before you wear it on your sleeve.
5. Seek the empowerment of women: Before Patrick came along Irish culture was remarkably egalitarian in comparison to Greco-Roman culture. Women could own property and were well respected mediators, diplomats and priestesses. In come cases they were famous warriors and rulers. In Ireland marriages were seen as partnerships and both parties supplied a dowry and could initiate a divorce. As far as we can tell Patrick had no trouble with this.
In the current evangelical climate of submission vs. headship, love vs. respect and mars vs. venus (all rooted in Greco-Roman culture) Patrick comes as a surprise. He enjoyed the company of women, gave them positions of senior leadership, saw them as equals and co-heirs with Christ. The Apostle Paul states that all are one in Christ and there is no “Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female”. Strangely enough he wrote that in a letter to the Galatian people who were themselves descended from Celts! In the footsteps of these great thinkers I believe it is time for us to seek reconciliation between the sexes and stop trying to define each other by narrow stereotypes. Let Christ be Christ in us irrespective of gender. Let us all be who God made us to be, not conform to ancient near eastern or 1950’s Americana caricatures.
For further Christian reading on gender equality I highly recommend Rachel Held Evan’s writings on the subject. rachelheldevans.com/mutuality
6. Commit to doing that thing that you are afraid of doing: Patrick was an daring person. He could not have been anything else. Not only was he returning to his former masters; he was also one of a scant handful of people in the 400 years after Christ to share the Gospel outside of the Roman Empire. Nothing would have been more scary for a Roman than leaving the peace of Rome. It was unthinkable without an army at your back.
Yet he did it. In spite of all the odds stacked against him and the better judgement of his peers he set sail for Ireland and never looked back. Is there and opportunity before you that scares you to death? In the spirit of Saint Patrick I encourage you to prayerfully consider doing that thing. It will not be easy. Patrick, like the Apostle Paul before him, endured great hardship during his mission to the Irish. I am sure that he felt doubt and fear but we inherited so much from his courage.
As a result of his mission, Ireland was transformed from an illiterate and fractious network of feuding kingdoms into the island of saints and scholars. The warrior slavers became passionate advocates of learning. It is arguable that there are many classic works (pagan and Christian) that would have been lost if it were not for the diligent copying of Irish monks. Europe’s dark age may have lasted longer or been even more dark if it were not for Irish missionaries returning to the continent and spreading their learning. Patrick’s act of courage casts a long shadow on history. Who are we to withhold our acts of courage from the world or judge if we are good enough or not? This Saint Patrick’s Day dare to do something courageous to honor Ireland’s most famous (adopted) son.
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