Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Patrick - The Evangelist

I did not realize until it was too late that it would have made sense to talk about Patrick near his day. So here I am, about a month late.

Patrick is one of those interesting people in church history. An initially obscure person who came to make a big difference. He lived at the time when the Roman Empire was falling apart. He also lived at the time when much of Roman Christianity was becoming nominal and would soon be overwhelmed  by a flood of paganism and Arianism (which denied the deity of Christ). Patrick, who was from Britain, which was part of the Roman empire, gives the clear impression that he himself was a fairly nominal Christian when he was taken prisoner and enslaved by the Irish, who were neither Roman or Christian. While he was out taking care of his master's sheep, he became serious about his faith in God. He tells how God led him through a hard process, with the help of answered prayers, to freedom. Then he dreamed that God wanted him to go back to the people who had enslaved him and tell them about Christ. This was a dangerous thing to do. It would have also have been a difficult thing to do. But Patrick, who had lived among the Irish, was an obvious choice, and he ultimately obeyed.

As a result of this, many Irish came to profess Christ. They in turn sent out Columba  and others to reach the Scots, who were descendants of the Irish who had settled in the area of Scotland. From there they reached out to the Picts, the original inhabitants of the area. The Irish ended up helping in the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons (the pagans who conquered the British) and in sending missionaries to Germany, where many of the invading peoples had come from. They also sent men like Columbano to the nominally Christian people on the continent. The fall of the Roman Empire was a dark and difficult time. A time of chaos and one when much of the nominally Roman empire was conquered by those of differing viewpoints. It was into this situation that the Irish and their spiritual descendants brought spiritual help. I do not believe they were alone in this; there were others, who I will get to, who also played their parts. I do not believe the Irish saved civilization or saved Christianity, but they made their serious contribution to the cause. All because one man was willing to go back to a people who had kidnapped and enslaved him, to preach the truth of God. I am sure that I could not agree with everything that was taught by this movement, but I see the hand of God here. I also see God's ability to deal with apparent spiritual catastrophe. When everything seemed black, God brought help from an unexpected source. He never fails to renew His people in ways not foreseen.

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