John 15:1-18 (9-18)
Raymond Lull is spoken of as the first and greatest missionary who has ever gone to the Muslim world. He was a knight of a new crusade at a time when the last crusade had begun. The new crusade Lull was planning was different in method, but it called for as much bravery as the old kind that depended upon horses, banners, swords, and armor. He loved Christ with a passionate love and saw that the only true missionary method was the method of love. He is sometimes called "the apostle of love." Any effective missionary has a love for Christ and a love for the lost.
Lull was born in 1235 (750 plus years ago) on the island of Majorca, the principle city of which is Palma. He was from a distinguished Catalanian family. His father had been rewarded for bravery in the army of the King of Aragon and given a considerable tract of land and wealth on Majorca. In his early days, Raymond was quite worldly. He became a courtier to King James II of Aragon and was the court poet and a very skilled musician. He lived a life of profligacy. Although he had a wife (whom he married in 1257) and several young children, he tried to woo the wife of one of the court officials. While composing a very lewd and suggestive poem addressed to this woman, he had a vision of Christ looking upon him with great sorrow. He also saw the wounds that Christ had suffered as He died for our salvation. This shook him greatly, and he put the poem aside. A week or so later when he took up pen to complete the poem, the vision appeared a second time. This happened three times. We may feel repulsion at such a life; but remember, we are all sinners. Raymond was convicted of his sin and came to know Christ as his Saviour in 1263 at 28 years of age.
This occurred before the Reformation, and the only church that Raymond knew was the Roman Catholic Church. As he matured in faith and spoke out against the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, the hierarchy of the church ranked him as a heretic and excommunicated him. Historians who have researched his life and writings feel that, although he knew nothing but the Roman Church, he was indeed a man who understood salvation by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. Of all the men of his century whom we are aware of, Raymond Lull was the most possessed by the love and life of Christ and the most eager to share his possessions with the world.
Following his salvation experience, Lull returned to the island of Majorca and sold all of his property (which was considerable), gave the money to the poor, and reserved only a scant allowance for his wife and children. In his own words, this was the vow of his consecration: "To Thee, Lord God, do I now offer myself and my wife and my children and all that I possess. And since I approach Thee humbly with this gift and sacrifice, may it please Thee to condescend to accept all that I give and offer up now for Thee that I and my wife and my children may be Thy humble slaves."
- Matthew 10:37-39 "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."
- The call: For a period of time Lull was a recluse, living a hermit's life; but again the Lord appeared to him in a vision. God showed him that he must go to the world with the message of Christ. He was 40 years old when he began his missionary career.
- A people: He had a burden to reach the Muslim world which had so recently been pushed back out of Spain into North Africa.
- A preparation: He spent the next nine years in intensive study of the Arabic language as well as Muslim culture, philosophy, and religion. He strongly advocated the importance of such studies as one seeks to reach a people for Christ. On one occasion during this period of intense study with his tutor, a Moorish Muslim slave, the Moor blasphemed the name of Christ. In anger, Lull rose up and struck the slave who, in turn, pulled a dagger and wounded Lull severely though not critically. The slave was placed in prison and, knowing the consequences of this act of violence, hanged himself in his cell. This shook Lull, and he realized as never before that wooing and winning Muslims to Christ would not be through violence, as Muslims had done in spreading their religion across North Africa, but by love. (This action toward his slave was very unlike that of Henry Martyn who, under similar circumstances, had wept as his lovely Lord was blasphemed rather than thrashing out in anger.)
- Co-workers: Having mastered the language and culture of the Muslim world, Raymond began challenging people to go as missionaries to the Muslim people. However, his pleas went unheeded. He established chairs of missions in several European universities; and although considerable interest was aroused, no one was willing to go with the message of love to the Muslim world. His motto became "He who loves not lives not; he who lives by THE LIFE cannot die." He said, "Missionaries will convert the world by preaching, but also through the shedding of tears and blood and with great labor and through bitter death." (Acts 20:24)
When he saw that his efforts to challenge others to go as missionaries to the Muslim world had failed, he determined to go himself to these benighted people. His first trip is thought to have taken place in 1287, at which time he would have been in his early 50s. He was in the city of Genoa, from which trading vessels frequently plied the Mediterranean between Genoa and the North African coast. He booked passage on a vessel going to Tunis and put all of his possessions, including his books, on the boat and boarded in preparation for the voyage but became very fearful of what might happen to him if he were to preach in this Muslim city. Who does not experience fear? He had his possessions removed and allowed the vessel to go without him. It had no sooner left the port than he was struck with great shame, feeling he had betrayed his Lord and Savior. It affected him so severely that he became critically ill with an undiagnosed illness. Since there were frequent voyages, another ship soon made preparation for the voyage, and Raymond allowed himself to be carried on board in order to sail on that vessel. However, seeing his critical condition and fearful that he would not survive the voyage, his friend removed him from the ship against his will. A third time, with a ship sailing, he persuaded his friends to carry him on board, and this time he did set sail. No sooner had the vessel reached open water than he recovered miraculously from his illness and during the voyage testified that he had never been in better health.
Upon reaching Tunis, he engaged in open debate with Muslim scholars; and a number at that time professed to accept Christ as Savior. This so alarmed the king that Raymond was thrown into a dungeon and given a death sentence. He experienced rejection—persecution! However, after a period of time (and perhaps at the pleas of some of the Genoese merchants), his death sentence was commuted to deportation with the threat that return would mean certain death. Before the ship on which he was being deported left the harbor, he jumped ship under the cover of darkness and hid among the warehouses in the dock area. Learning of his whereabouts, his new converts frequented his hiding place and were discipled by him for a number of months. He had a love for the converts and bonded to them. Eventually he returned to Italy.
He traveled extensively back to the European capitals and to Rome, trying to challenge the Christians of Europe to go to the Muslim people with the Gospel, but again he had no success. It was at this time that the Roman Church denounced him as a heretic. During this period of time, he made long journeys to Cyprus, Syria, Armenia, and back through Cyprus. He not only had a burden for the Muslim people but also for the Jews and taught and preached the necessity of reaching out arms of love and compassion and teaching them that Christ was indeed their Messiah. He had a vision of winning the whole world for Christ.
He had no plan to retire. His next trip to North Africa was in 1307, when he was in his early 70s. He boldly preached the Word of God in a city in Algeria called Bugia. When he was called before the judge by an angry mob and questioned about his preaching in the market, the judge threatened death. Having no fear of death, Lull's response was, "The true servant of God must fear no peril of death in showing forth the Truth to infidels who are in error and bringing them into the way of salvation."
- Persecution: He was placed in prison and received much abuse. He was struck with sticks, stones, and fists; had his beard pulled; and was placed in chains. Later he was placed in a more vile dungeon, but some merchants from Catalan and Genoa pleaded for clemency. He was then put into a little better situation where he could receive visitors and was able to preach to the Moors and disciple his converts. For a year and a half he languished in the vile, foul dungeon. During this time he, like Paul, preached to one and all in prison. His converts would come secretly to him for instruction. Apparently, Lull did not think that a lack of speedy results was an argument for abandoning the work of preaching to Muslims the unsearchable riches of Christ. Finally, after a year and a half of imprisonment, he was again banished and told never to return. This time a very severe storm wrecked the ship as it neared Italy. Many of the passengers perished. Lull escaped the sea but lost all of his possessions.
Throughout his career, Lull was a prolific writer and wrote hundreds of books. Although most of these have been lost, some remain. The most famous and well-known of these is an allegory entitled The Tree of Love. Lull put great value in the power of the written word.
Failing again to stimulate interest in his burden for reaching the Muslims and Jews with the Gospel, Lull (at the age of 79) returned secretly to Bugia in the year 1314 and hid himself away. He was able to contact his converts from a previous visit and taught them in secret for one year. At the end of that year, he could contain himself no longer and openly went into the marketplace and boldly preached Jesus Christ. How like Jeremiah! The angry mobs dragged him out of the city and, at the instigation and approval of the king, stoned him. Some historians say he was stoned to death at that time. Others say that some Catalanian merchants put him on a sailing vessel and that he died enroute to his home island of Majorca. He died on June 30, 1315, at the age of 80 years. He had previously said, "Death has no terror for a sincere servant of Christ who is endeavoring to bring souls to the knowledge of the truth."
John 15:16-17, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another."
Jeremiah 31:3, "The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
The following poem is from a volume known as "The Song of Raymond."
Holiness, life and sanity,
God grant me joy, and liberty
from sin and evil keep me free.
His I am, wholly, trustingly:
and neither Devil nor man is he
that has dominion over me.
Raymond Lull-the first martyr, missionary to Islam. Who will take up the challenge of his life and devote it to preaching Christ to the 1.2 billion people bound by Islam?