Yes, I wore a green shirt today. I also ordered a side of green at lunch (which is not unusual for me). I have a wife named Shannon and a daughter named Kiley; that’s pretty Irish. I think I have done my part to make March 17 interesting. That’s about the limit to my “going green.”
Other than the name St. Patrick I think most of the traditions and stories associated with the day are the stuff of legend. Very few historians actually agree on much about St. Patrick other than the fact that he is the patron saint of Ireland, that he was actually British, and that there are no snakes on the island (which is a compelling reason for me to consider moving there). As far as shamrocks, the meaning of green, leprechauns, and luck of it all, no one has the beat on how it all ties together. Yet I do think that for Christians there are some things we can take from the day to move us forward in our faith.
- Pray soberly for missionaries. Traditionally Catholics in Ireland use this day to pray for missionaries, and then they apparently drown themselves with stout alcohol. The alcohol grossly distorts the day, but at least in some respects it begins with good intentions.
St. Patrick may not have driven the snakes away from Ireland, but most agree that he did bring Christ to the island. Some say that the driving away of snakes is a metaphor for his driving paganism away from the land with the gospel. Apparently the fuller story of Patrick is that he was captured and enslaved by pirates as a boy. After he was released and returned to Britain, St. Patrick actually made his way back to Ireland as a missionary.
Minus the alcohol, I do think we can take away from the day that it is important to pray for missionaries. The heart of God is for the nations to hear and respond to the gospel. This fact alone should help bring us to sobriety to the subject of missions. There are many missionaries today that are discouraged and serving in dangerous places. They need not only supply and support, but they need prayer. Much of what missionaries do is front-line spiritual warfare stuff. They are breaking into places of bondage with a message that is antagonistic to darkness. Their feet are beautiful (Romans 10:15). Let us pray for and soberly consider our missionaries today.
- Don’t drink to a saint, be a saint. In the Catholic tradition only select people are saints. Yet the Scriptures teach us that every born again believer is a saint. The word “saint” is a personal application of the word holiness. It means to be set apart for the Lord’s use. Paul uses the word often in his epistles. Ephesians 1:1 being an example, “To the saints who are in Ephesus.” He was not addressing only the best of them with a Word from the Lord, he was addressing all of them. If we explore “sainthood” as it appears in Ephesians (actually appearing 9x in 6 chapters) we see that it is the saints that do the “work of the ministry (4:12).” It is in community with the saints that the Christian grows in his understanding and experience of the love of Christ (3:18). Thus it is the moral obligation of every Christian, as a set apart, saint, made holy by Christ, to live a sober and Christ honoring life (5:3).
It is unfortunate that a day set apart to honor a saint has been marred by so much drunkenness and debauchery, but this is usually the result of the pagan erosion of an otherwise “holi(y)-day.” It is not the duty of the Catholic saints to be super and for the rest of us to be less than them. Our standard for living, as Christians, as saints is Christ himself. St. Patrick’s day should not make us hasten to drink green beer but it should, as any other day, cause us to remember Christ. Don’t drink to the saints – be a saint.
- Don’t dig for a four leafed weed, just live wisely. There is something superstitious about St. Patrick’s Day that appears to be silly fun, but exposes a flawed theology that I think many people fall prey to. Apparently St. Patrick used the three leafed clover to teach the Trinity to the pagans. Somehow this little green weed has been translated into the symbol for superstitious favor. Find a four leafed clover and you’re set for life!
The Bible teaches that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord (Psalm 37:23). This is not teaching a fatalistic determinism, as in, God has me trapped in my destiny. Rather it is teaching that the righteous man does what God has instructed him to do. He makes decisions based on God’s Word. If you read the Bible correctly, favor and fortune are not tied to luck and superstition. Fate is tied directly to wisdom, making proper choices based on God’s Word. If you want to change your stars, forget digging through the weeds this afternoon looking for leaves and start living for the Lord. If you want things to change don’t try a shamrock, try Proverbs. Do what the Bible says and see how that changes things.
Whatever you do on this St. Patrick’s day, if you are a child of Christ we should live morally, soberly, and saintly. Stay out of the weeds and get in the Word!