Many of us have long thought of St. Patrick’s Day as a day to wear green and eat corned beef and cabbage. However, we should examine what our friend Patrick did and how we can use it as a beautiful example of how we can bring God’s grace to a world that is often devoid of hope. Today, the supposed anniversary of his death should serve to remind Christians everywhere that our God is powerful and can use us no matter where we come from or what stratus of life from which we come.
Although recognized as Ireland’s patron saint, Patrick was not Irish but came to Ireland as a slave when he was only a teen. He was captive for about six years and worked primarily as a shepherd. During his captivity, Patrick, buoyed by his faith in Christ, found comfort in the promises that God would never leave him or forsake him in his circumstances. During captivity, God also gave Patrick a sense of call, similar to the sense of call God puts on our hearts.
After returning to Britain, escaping his captors, God called Patrick into ordination as a Priest. After becoming a Priest, he petitioned to go back to Ireland to bring God’s Gospel message to Ireland’s Celtic people. Instead of casting aside the people’s traditions and denouncing their pagan roots, Patrick sought to share the Gospel as it is working in their lives already. Through his actions, and practices he translated the Gospel into a language that they would understand. In much the same way, Paul was able to explain the Gospel to those at the Areopagus.
Today, we must follow the Saints’ example and share the Gospel with people, not in judgment, but with grace, just as Christ came to us with a Spirit of Love. We must seek to understand the culture. Learn the language, speak with humility, and bring hope, justice, peace, and love. Speak truth to power, but you must first speak the culture’s language to be heard and understood. Saint Patrick understood and embodied this and integrated notably Irish items into the worship of God.
It is not the job of evangelism to wash over and eradicate culture. Instead, through our understanding of culture, we translate the Gospel into the language of culture. Instead of appropriating and colonizing, we see where God is already at work and join into God’s Kingdom work right where we live and play.