by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20 ESV
Around the fifth century, as the story is told, Irish raiders stole an adolescent named Patrick from his family and enslaved him for six years until he escaped back to his family in Britain. After entering the church, Patrick returned to Ireland – to the people who had held him in slavery – serving them as a missionary and spreading the truth of Jesus Christ.
Patrick is quoted as saying, “Before I was humiliated, I was like a stone that lies in deep mud, and he who is mighty came and in his compassion raised me up and exalted me very high and placed me on the top of the wall.”
In his studies, Patrick must have read the story of a boy named Joseph, favored by his father above all his brothers. One day, out of jealousy for their father’s attentions, the brothers conspired to kill Joseph, but instead sold him to passing slave traders.
Joseph was enslaved in Egypt but found favor with the man he served. Once again, though, despite Joseph’s innocence, he was falsely accused and imprisoned. Any one of us would have been tempted to sink into self-pity, bitterness, and anger. Joseph’s faithfulness had been once again repaid with injustice and humiliation. During his imprisonment, Joseph, again, distinguished himself for his faithful work.
Finally, Joseph was freed and rose to be second only to Pharaoh. God used him to serve and deliver not only the nation where he served as a slave, but also his family, the very brothers who betrayed him. By the time he saved them, he, like St. Patrick, had found a greater purpose to his trials than they could ever know.
To celebrate St. Patrick is to celebrate the power of the One True God who continues to work in those of us stones that lie in modern mud, in those of us betrayed or victims of injustice, in those of us who suffer despite our faithfulness and love.
Today, before you don the green, cook up the corned beef, or raise a pint, consider those who have committed wrongs against you – those who perhaps held your spirit captive – and choose, like St. Patrick and Joseph, to forgive them, maybe reach out to them, to serve in the power of the name of Jesus Christ.
People harmed many of us in our youth. Like St. Patrick who was taken captive, or Joseph, the dreamer, sold by his brothers into slavery, we experienced harm and a certain type of bondage that interrupted our direct track to growing as we thought we should. St. Patrick and Joseph both found the power of God to be stronger than the power of those who had done them wrong.
They overcame through the spirit of Jesus Christ and not only broke free but forgave those who wronged them. Rather than being crippled by their captors, they translated their experiences into the language of God’s love and wove it into a greater story.
To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is to celebrate a kind of freedom that many still have not experienced. The freedom to forgive those who have harmed us and to live our lives defined – not by them – but by our devotion to the truth and to Jesus Christ.
It isn’t an easy path. But it is a possible path. Jesus. Jesus is the Way.
Ask Patrick. He found the road. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. It is a celebration of those, freed by Christ, who spent their freedom serving others.
About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.
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