John Piper on The Perseverance of Raymond Lull

Consider the way Raymond Lull finished his earthly course.

Raymond Lull was born in a wealthy family on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain in 1235. His life as a youth was dissolute, but a series of visions compelled him to follow Christ. He first entered monastic life but later became a missionary to Muslim countries in northern Africa. He learned Arabic and after returning from Africa became a professor of Arabic until he was 79. Samuel Zwemer describes the end of his life like this, and, of course, it is the exact opposite of retirement:

“His pupils and friends naturally desired that he should end his days in the peaceful pursuit of learning and the comfort of companionship.

Such however was not Lull’s wish. . . . In Lull’s contemplations we read . . . “Men are wont to die, O Lord, from old age, the failure of natural warmth and excess of cold; but thus, if it be Thy will, Thy servant would not wish to die; he would prefer to die in the glow of love, even as Thou wast willing to die for him.”

The dangers and difficulties that made Lull shrink back . . . in 1291 only urged him forward to North Africa once more in 1314. His love had not grown cold, but burned the brighter . . . . He longed not only for the martyr’s crown, but also once more to see his little band of believers [in Africa]. Animated by these sentiments he crossed over to Bugia [Algeria] on August 14, and for nearly a whole year labored secretly among a little circle of converts, whom on his previous visits he had won over to the Christian faith. . . .

At length, weary of seclusion, and longing for martyrdom, he came forth into the open market and presented himself to the people as the same man whom they had once expelled from their town. It was Elijah showing himself to a mob of Ahabs! Lull stood before them and threatened them with divine wrath if they still persisted in their errors. He pleaded with love, but spoke plainly the whole truth. The consequences can be easily anticipated. Filled with fanatic fury at his boldness, and unable to reply to his arguments, the populace seized him, and dragged him out of the town; there by the command, or at least the connivance, of the king, he was stoned on the 30th of June 1315.1

So, Raymond Lull was 80 years old when he gave his life for the Muslims of North Africa. Nothing could be further from the American dream of retirement than the way Lull lived out his last days.

-John Piper

To learn more about Raymond Lull I recommend Raymond Lull: First Missionary to the Moslems.

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