Yet a Difficult Day // Ramon Llull & the Kids of 9/11
This post includes an excerpt from PILGRIM Vol. I
On this anniversary of that fateful, horrible day that changed so much for so many nations, particularly the relationship between Americans and Iraqis, we reflect on Paul's charge in Philippians 2: to stare at the humility of Jesus until it soaks into the fibers of our own beings—to "have this mind in [us] also," to give everything we have to people who may or may not be our enemies. To love, and love well. Such is the Jesus way. It is the holy way. It is not our instinct, but it is, as Paul wrote, the "better way."
Perhaps you're unfamiliar with the story of Ramon Llull. We will be carrying it in our hearts this week as we serve in Iraq and the region:
Born just a few years after Spain was liberated by Muslim rule, Ramon Llull grew into a life of debasement and debauchery before meeting the Messiah in his middle age. Jesus wrecked this son of the Crusade’s lust for pagan hedonism and pushed him—in the way only love can “compel”—into a living revelation of the Sovereign who bled and died for His enemies. He gave decades of the Gospel to those who’d given decades to his family’s destruction. It was a beautiful and worthy witness.
Llull’s life serves as a holy exception to an era marked by a violent collision between the Islamic caliphate and a state-supported delusion of Christian conquests. He left his hometown for the blood-soaked shores of North Africa and turned by testimony to his sword-bearing childhood friends in an appeal for those who confessed the Christ to lay down their arms and take up the kind of crosses that crucified their King. There is, indeed, a “better way.”
Our own lives are confronted by the same juncture. Nationalism and self-preservation compete with discernment and wisdom in our hearts and minds. Yet the worth of Jesus must beckon us to declare with our days He is better than wealth, better than comfort, and better than blasphemies. It must bother us that so many haven’t heard His Name yet—or I begin to fear we’ve taken it ourselves in vain.
We must all ask how we’ll spend ourselves on this side of time and eternity. We must grapple with the command to “go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey” everything our Master taught and teaches us. Many, myself included, must do so with or without feeling a particular “call” to anywhere besides where we’re born. Some, like Saint Patrick, feel deeply they have “no reason to go, save for the Gospel and God’s promises,” for we are just “pilgrims, sojourners in this age.” Sometimes it is the recognition of the “joy set before [us]” that adequately reminds us we have very little to stay for in light of the glory and value of the Gospel going forth. What better way to spend our vaporous lives than to herald the Kingdom coming?
Paul’s “ambition” was to build foundations where there were none. His driving convictions were two-fold: Jesus was worth it, and the unreached deserved it. He left Jerusalem and nearly made it to Llull’s hometown more than a millennia before the man was born. It is a remarkable testament to legacy and lasting fruit.
In the words of Samuel Zwemer, the “apostle to Islam,” “with God’s sovereignty as basis, God’s glory as goal, and God’s will as motive, the missionary enterprise today can face the most difficult of all missionary tasks—the evangelization of the Moslem world.”
May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of His suffering.
 1 Corinthians 12:31
 2 Corinthians 5:14
 Deuteronomy 5:11
 Matthew 28:19-20
 Patrick records this reflection in his memoir, My Name Is Patrick.
 Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11
 Hebrews 12:2
 Romans 15:20
 Zwemer, S. M. (1950). Calvinism and the missionary enterprise. Theology Today, 214, 7:2.