What’s your shamrock?
Saint Patrick’s day is upon us (though fairly overshadowed this year considering our current worldwide situation). No matter what your denominational or religious affiliation is, you will, at some point, come face-to-face with icons and symbols that are (some, very loosely) connected to the patron saint of Ireland. Leprechauns, green beverages, limericks, and shamrocks are littered upon local storefronts, advertising, and very obviously: social media.
I’m not sure that Saint Patrick would approve of the various ways people celebrate the holiday of his namesake, and truthfully, it is a mind-bender to me how this particular holiday “stuck” in the first place - but it serves up some really interesting things to consider.
The legend goes that Saint Patrick was kidnapped at 16 years old and forcibly taken to Ireland to work as a slave, tending to sheep. A few years later, he managed to escape and return home to England. During that experience, he found faith in God and was compelled by a dream, and the Holy Spirit’s leading, to return to Ireland to share with them how to receive salvation through Jesus.
The one thing from his story that has somehow managed to stay connected to this very Americanized holiday is the object he used to explain the Holy Trinity (God the Father, His Son in the person of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) - the shamrock. Shamrocks usually have 3 leaves (sorry, four-leaf clover fans) but yet are unified as one, just like the Holy Trinity is unified, but able to be identified in their unique roles.
The thought presses on my mind: what would I use to explain God and how to receive salvation if I were asked today?
St. Patrick looked down, picked up a common plant, and let it guide him as he opened up the Good News of salvation to his once captors, now mission field.
What would you do to explain the Gospel? Growing up I was taught the Roman’s Road and the cliff illustration; I’ve seen people use tracts, and Salvation infinity cubes. Remember those colored bead bracelets and even #throwback WWJD bracelets? Yup, I kind of have some nostalgia about those.
NONE of these methods are bad, and I encourage you to consider all of them. Anything that helps you share the gospel is totally valid and I’m so grateful people much smarter than I spend time creating systems and resources we can use. But I suppose what I’m really trying to get at is what would you do? What would be authentic to your experience with the Living God and your personal testimony? Do you know how to do what 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) reminds us:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”
In light of all of the fears, pain, and suffering actively pressing in on our world - can you give an answer and explain with clarity the reason for your hope? It doesn’t have to be complicated, and probably means more when you use your own natural way of talking and relating. (Nothing makes people more uncomfortable than when you change your behaviors, speech patterns, or even voice when you go into “spiritual mode” - “Ugh...hello? Why are you talking like that? What’s happened to you? Have you been brainwashed? I don’t want that!”)
So find a clover, okay… not a clover per se. I just mean something “normal” for you to use when you want to share your faith with someone. For me, often, it’s been art. I get excited about it anyway and genuinely have felt my faith challenged and expanded over and over again by powerful visual testimonies to God's incredible creation. So when I get all jazzed up about something beautiful, man - it’s so easy to explain how this makes me think about the God that created all that beauty.
Maybe for you, an easy way to talk about God is how he just answered a huge prayer, or maybe the Roman’s Road helps you stand firm in a scriptural witness. Maybe it is talking about something in a book you read, or maybe, it's how a shamrock reminds you about how God is so incredible that He is three, but still One somehow.
Share your faith in the way that makes sense to you, but think about it today. How can you share? It’s not to “win converts” (though I certainly don’t want anyone to live without having the chance to hear about Christ) - but it’s to walk them out of slavery to sin into the freedom found in forgiveness by grace. It’s not weird to share freedom and love with people, it’s far worse to let them suffer without knowing what to do to have the life their soul longs for.