Patrick the Slave


From his brief autobiography we learn that…the Irish, then called Scots, began swooping down on the English coast, sailing up the rivers, raiding the settlements, and carrying off plunder and slaves. Among the captives was Patrick. So Ireland’s patron saint was not Irish! He had been reared a Christian. His father was a deacon, but Patrick’s religion sat lightly until, as a swineherd, he prayed ardently for his freedom. His conversion dates from this captivity: “The Lord opened to me the sense of my unbelief,” he says, then. After six years he managed to escape…. He would have gladly remained in England had he not had a dream one night in which the babies of Ireland pleaded with him to come back to their country and tell them about Christianity. At length he was sent out…to be a missionary to the people among whom he had once been a slave.

The excerpt above is from my favorite church history book, Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley. Being St. Patrick’s Day, I found myself thinking about this quote. As I thought about it, something struck me with new force: Patrick came to a sense of his own sinfulness while a slave.

Patrick’s revelation is shocking in an age where we focus on everyone else’s sins and how we have suffered because of them. At a time when Patrick had every right to rage against slavery and protest injustice, he concluded *he* needed forgiveness.

Such a stunning work of God’s Spirit in a person’s heart makes me worship. But it didn’t stop there. I have no words for Patrick’s decision to return to Ireland so he could preach the gospel. Thankfully, Jesus had words for this: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). Anyone who lives this out is of another Spirit, of another world (Luke 9:55; John 17:14).

Today, I pray more for you than the luck o’ the Irish. I pray you may walk with the Lord in a life changing, life upending way like Patrick. May Christ be magnified in our mortal bodies! (Php. 1:20).

[W]hen He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).

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