“In the same way, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
- Matthew 5.16
He keeps Christ’s blessed commandments in all things,
his bright deeds shine forth among men;
and they follow his holy miraculous example,
so that they too magnify God the Father in heaven.
- Sechnall, on Patrick, Audite Omnes Amantes, Irish, 5th century
We think of Patrick primarily as an evangelist, wandering up and down Ireland, preaching the Gospel to peasants and princes alike, and gathering a harvest of “many thousands”, as he tells us in his Confession.
If we examine his witness, however, as he reports it in his Confession, we will discover that it was as much a witness of works as of words. Patrick’s “bright deeds” included teaching literacy, purchasing slaves to freedom, caring for widows and orphans, teaching and discipling untold numbers of Ireland’s sons and daughters, ordaining men to the ministry, and sheltering women who devoted themselves to the service of God.
While Patrick could be stern – witness his Letter Against the Soldiers of Coroticus – he was typically gentle, selfless, humble, and always aware of his own “rusticity”, as he referred to it.
Patrick’s witness for Christ was so powerful because it combined the clarity of Gospel preaching with the charity of everyday Kingdom living. If we try for one without the other we will compromise our witness, misrepresent our King, and fail in our Kingdom calling. We are to be witnesses for Christ (Acts 1.8), not just “go witnessing.” And we are to proclaim the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, not just ensconce ourselves safely within it against the threats of a dark and foreboding age.
But we must lead with deeds – good works, conspicuously and selflessly performed before our contemporaries, who will only be able to explain what they see in us by resort to the grace of God. And then they will glorify Him with us, as the Irish and generations of Europeans for three-and-a-half centuries after Patrick glorified God because of the bright deeds he and those who followed him embodied in their lives and ministries.
What opportunities for bright deeds await you today? Prepare for them now in meditation and prayer, and you’ll be more likely to make wise use of the time when you’re in it (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17).
Psalm 90.12-15 (Landas: “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place”)
So teach us all our days to note that wisdom may be ours.
Return, O Lord, have pity on those servants who are Yours.
Each morning let Your love appear that we for joy may sing.
And make us glad for every day You us affliction bring.