Who is Ramond Lull and what does he have in common with 2:19? – by David Baldwin

Question: What has 2:19 got in common with an obscure 13th Century Mallorcan?

Answer: A love of language and a passion for cross-cultural mission.

If you thought the most notable person to come out of Mallorca was Rafael Nadal, then let me introduce you to two non-tennis playing Mallorcans.

Firstly, because this is 2:19 and Maura is one of our directors, a Mallorcan was Prime Minister of Spain on five separate occasions. He rejoiced in the excellent name of Antonio Maura (1853-1925).

OK, we’ll forgive you for not having heard of an obscure Spanish politician, but please note the next name well.

Ramond Lull (A.K.A. Ramon Llull & Ramond Lully) was born on Mallorca in 1232, shortly after the North African Moors had been driven out following a 300 year occupation. Many Moors still lived there as Lull grew up and he learned Arabic, Latin and his beloved Catalan.

After a sudden conversion to Christ in 1263, when he saw a repeated vision of Christ hanging on the cross, he devoted his life to the service of God as a Fanciscan monk and became one of the greatest linguistic scholars and missionaries of the Middle Ages.

Lull strongly opposed the crusades and called for prayer, friendship, scholarship and engagement with Muslims to further the gospel, not military aggression. The only weapon that Christianity can rightly wield is prayer and love, he pleaded.[1] He studied widely in literature, linguistics and philosphy and was well aqainted with both Christian and Isalmic scholarship.

Lull was a tireless traveller as he lobbied princes, kings and popes in order to secure funds for language study and missionary training. In 1276 he persuaded the King of Mallorca to set up and fund a language school for Franciscan missionaries at Miramar! This at a time when few thought beyond their own circles and very few were interested in language study for the purposes of mission.

He was passionate that … there should be builded certain places where certain persons, devout and of lofty intelligence should study diverse languages to the end that they might preach the holy Gospel to all nations.[2]

His desire to take language study seriously in service of gospel mission was no flash in the pan – he served for more than 50 years and into his 80s writing, preaching, debating, urging and making many missionary journeys to North Africa.

Historian Stephen Neill notes that Lull saw three things as necessary for effective cross-cultural mission:[3]

  • Language study – not relying on Latin but learning the heart language of the people to whom he was ministering and encouraging linguistic study more generally.
  • Defence of the faith – Lull wrote much in the Christian apologetic style of the times, arguing with his Muslim friends that the doctrines of the Christian faith were both reasonable and compelling. He wasn’t ashamed of doctrines like the Incarnation and the Trinity but rejoiced to explain them to his sceptical Muslim friends.
  • Sacrificial life – Lull led by example and called all Christians, high and low, to follow him in living sacrificially for the sake of taking the gospel to unbelievers. He said; Missionaries will convert the world by preaching, but also through the shedding of tears and blood, and with great labour, and through a bitter death.

 

Legend has it that he died just such a death after rough handling while preaching Christ to Muslims Moors in Tunis in 1315. A sober reminder that Christian mission is always risky.

Through his life Lull had known both encouragements and setbacks but his constancy in his desire to communicate the gospel to those who needed it is the reason that Lull is celebrated today as a missionary pioneer and hero.

Lull first encountered ‘the religious other’ right in his own back yard, in Mallorca. While many considered these Muslim ‘foreigners’ to be a threat, Lull befriended them, spent time with them, took language seriously with them and communicated Christ to them, knowing several converts during his ministry.

Come to think of it, that’s a pretty fair description of what 2:19 is all about too! For Mallorca read UK towns and cities. For Latin and Arabic read English classes. For Moors read the nations in our own back yards.

For further reading why not get a copy of Samuel Zwemer’s Ramond Lull: First Missionary to the Moslems

 

[1] Jerzy Zdandowski, Saving Sinners, even Moslems (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018), 198.

[2] E.A. Peers, A Life of Ramon Lull (London: Burns, Oats & Washbourne, 1927), 43.

[3] Stephen Neill, A History of Christian Missions (London: Penguin, 1986), 116-7.