And so, another Reformation Day Faire is over and as I reflect back I am simply filled with awe. I'm amazed at God's faithfulness, at His love, and His grace. God is the God who was and is to come. He never changes. He is infinite, unchangeable and sovereign regardless of our actions. The God I serve today is the same God who Patrick of Ireland served in the 5th century. The God who filled Patrick with love and compassion for his own captors is the God who can fill my heart with love for those who hurt and cause me pain. If you don't know the story of Patrick of Ireland you should really take some time to learn about this amazing man of God.
All weekend my mind kept racing back to just the sheer power of Patrick's decision to return to Ireland. If I had been kidnapped as a young teenager, sold into slavery in another country, escaped and returned to my home, I really think I would struggle with the idea of going back to that land even as a missionary. That kind of love and compassion isn't my sinful, natural reaction to hurt, but it is the natural reaction for someone who sees how much they have been forgiven. R. C. Sproul pointed out that Patrick lived out the phrase "I have been forgiven." In his actions and his desire to spread the gospel with the people of Ireland, he showed that the man who is forgiven much, loves much.
In my VOM classes this week, I started a new class on evangelizing. Why do I share the gospel? Why is it of any importance that I tell others the good news? Why step out of my neat, secure comfort zone? What possesses other people to do so?
It's easy for me to slip back and forth between duty and love for God. But really, what is duty anyways? Why bother doing something just because it's something that should be done?
Then I go back to Patrick. No duty there. Seriously, didn't the Celts deserve not to know the good news that Patrick knew? Did they deserve forgiveness?
Then again, did Patrick deserve to hear the gospel? Did he deserve forgiveness?
Did I deserve to be raised in a home where the gospel was daily preached?
Did I deserve God's forgiveness?
But Christ looked down on this wretched, sinful being and loved me. He chose to save me even when my heart was in rebellion against Him. He forgave me. No duty. Just love. And it's that kind of love that He puts in our hearts. See, when I think about sharing the Gospel in light of my natural, sinful feelings, it's just too uncomfortable to be worth the risk. But when I think about sharing the Gospel in light of God's saving grace, His mercy, His love, and His compassion for me, suddenly the fear begins to melt away and I want to tell others. I want those that have hurt me to know that there is freedom in Christ and that He forgives! I want them to feel the power of Christ's love! When I look at how much God has forgiven me, I see a glory beyond comprehension! I want others to see that. Christ has saved me! He has redeemed me! No hurt, no shame, no pain can compete with the love of God.
That's why Patrick returned to Ireland. That's the only reason I can feel love and compassion for those who have hurt and wounded me. Apart from the Gospel, there is no reason to love those that have caused us pain and suffering. The question is, do we know the Gospel? Is it real for us today? Because if it is, I think we will look at life differently.