By J. Scott Bridger
St Francis Magazine Vol. 5:1 (2009)
Introduction: In the minds of most evangelicals, missions began with William Carey (1761-1834) and his efforts in India during the 18th and 19th centuries. Apart from this, it is supposed, very little was done to spread the message of the gospel after the first three centuries of the Christian era. Little, if anything, is known about the missionary endeavors of such men as St. Patrick in the 5th century, St. Francis of Assisi and Raymond Lull in the 13th and 14th centuries, and Joseph Wolff, a Jewish convert and missionary to both Jews and Arabs in the 19th century.
This is particularly true when considering the history of missions among Muslims. For the most part, it is assumed, Christian interaction with Islam has consisted of fleeing in the face of marauding jihadists, answering Jihad with Crusades, or, in the face of immense pressure to one’s family and livelihood as a dhimmi, conversion. The fact is Christ has always had his martyrs (i.e. witnesses) and there is much to be gained from reading the stories of individuals who risked life and limb to spread the message of the Savior who descended from heaven to offer himself as a ransom for mankind. Theirs are stories of tremendous courage and sacrifice in the face of horrendous consequences for testifying to Christ.
This paper aims to fill the gap by telling something about the life and thought of Raymond Lull. His story is in need of telling, particularly considering this current age when Islamic militancy is the norm rather than the exception and missionary endeavors among Muslims face formidable challenges, oftentimes leading to the ultimate sacrifice on the part of the missionary. Lull’s life and example are amazing considering the age in which he lived. As Zwemer notes: ‘The only missionary spirit of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was that of the Crusaders. They took up the sword and perished by the sword. But Raymund Lull was raised up as if to prove in one startling case…what the Crusades might have become and might have done for the world, had they been fought for the cross with the weapons of Him whose last words from it were forgiveness and peace.’
Lull himself stated in this regard: ‘I see many knights going to the Holy Land beyond the seas and thinking that they can acquire it by force of arms; but in the end all are destroyed before they attain that which they think to have. Whence it seems to me that the conquest of the Holy Land ought not to be attempted except in the way in which Thou and Thine apostles acquired it, namely, by love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and of blood.’