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saint patrick wasn’t irish: a reminder to love our enemies well

Today, we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, the day on which a bishop who served Ireland for decades in the 5th century AD, supposedly died.

It’s interesting to think about his life, and his legacy, in light of what our world (and our country) are facing now.  Every day, there are new headlines about how afraid we should be of immigrants and refugees.  How much we should resist foreigners and strangers.  How we should exact revenge on people who have threatened –or taken — our jobs, our opportunities, our rights.

Lots of people are drawing lines and spending an incredible amount of time, energy, angst and anger deciding who’s on which side.

There’s us and then there’s them.  There’s American and then there’s non-American.  There’s white and black.  There’s gay and straight.  There’s Christian and non-Christian.  There’s male and female.  There are people who are like us, and people who are, well, in lots of ways and for lots of reasons, different.

And then, today, we celebrate Saint Patrick.  Though he’s strongly associated with Ireland, he actually wasn’t Irish.  He was British, and he was captured by Irish pirates when he was a teenager and taken to Ireland as a slave.  It took him six years to escape.

And that’s where the story should end, right?  Patrick’s successful escape from evil people who kidnapped him and held him captive for years.  It would hardly be surprising if Patrick returned to his people like a hero returning from battle — marrying his high school sweetheart, building a home on a cliff overlooking the sea, fathering children and living happily ever after.

But that isn’t where the story ends. That isn’t how the narrative goes.

When Patrick returned to Britain, he underwent training to become a spiritual leader.

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And then…he went back.

Um, yeah.  He went back to the country where he’d been taken illegally.  Back to the place that must have held some violent and terrifying memories for him.  Back to the people who had enslaved him.

He went back to Ireland.  Not to seek revenge or to gloat over his captors.  He went back to minister to lost people who needed to be found.  He went back to suffering people who needed to be healed.  He went back to serve his enemies.  He went back to love the people who had ruined his young life.

So today, sure, let’s have fun.  Let’s wear green.  Let’s drink shamrock shakes (or Guiness, if you’re so inclined.)  Let’s listen to Dropkick Murphy’s.  Let’s celebrate the immigrants who introduced us to this tradition.

But today, most of all,  let’s remember what St. Patrick’s life really stood for.  Let’s honor his life and follow his example by loving our enemies well.

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Thanks for sharing!

3 thoughts on “saint patrick wasn’t irish: a reminder to love our enemies well

  1. I have read that runaways from slavery in those days could be given the death penalty. Patrick went to a place where he was officially already an outlaw. When his ministry began there were no churches in Ireland, and by his death there were hardly any villages without a church. He is an encouragement to faith and love all you wrote here.

  2. Hey Sarah! You’re exactly right when you say we need to love our enemies. Most often times, they are the people who need love the most. Love is a choice. Knowledge is the first step, but to go out into the world and practice that knowledge is what matters.
    My name is Jake Bikle and I spoke with you after your talk at Point Loma Nazarene. You have such a powerful story. To refresh your memory, I am friends with Bob Goff and I traveled to Swaziland over the summer. Apologies for the wait, but you requested that I reach out to you over your blog! How are you? What have you been doing lately?

    1. Jake! It’s so great to hear from you. After Point Loma, I spoke at 6 other universities. Now I’m back in San Francisco, wrapping up book #2 (which launches in November 2017), and recording the audio book for it. Hope you’re doing well!

      Sarah

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