Recently, Warren Larson wrote about St. Francis of Assisi’s trip to go see “the most powerful Muslim in the world.” An excerpt is shown below. This is a great story of fearless faith. This man knew what the end result could be of walking into this Egyptian sultan’s palace and telling him about Jesus. He did it anyway. He did not fear death, and God was with him. What do we have to fear? We shouldn’t be harassing and antagonizing people. We should always treat people with respect, and they have the right to make up their own minds. But do we hide who we are (or whose we are)? Or are we willing to share the love of a God who completely changed our lives? What are we afraid of?
The date was 1219. The purposeless Fifth Crusade dragged on and on. St. Francis of Assisi and a few chosen friends prayed about what most Christians in that day thought was a senseless and foolhardy mission: convert the most powerful Muslim in the world. Attempting to win no less than the Kamil Sultan of Egypt was incredible to say the least. Such faith, holy audacity, and spiritual concern for Muslims provide a shining example in our day, when many Christians are tempted to hate and fear them.
Francis took a dozen brothers through Syria and then on to Egypt. He had first appealed to Pope Gregory IX, but was denied permission, so he appealed to Cardinal Pelagius for permission to travel to the sultan. So radical was the sultan that he had promised a Byzantine gold piece for anyone who brought the head of a Christian. The cardinal described the sultan as “treacherous, brainless, and false hearted,” but after some delay granted permission because of Francis’s unusual zeal. Where other Christians saw the face of evil, Francis saw a man without the Savior, and compassion welled up inside of him.
For the last lap of the journey Francis and his trusted friend Illumimato left the Crusader’s camp without looking back. As the friars walked straight into the battlefield, they were caught, beaten, and brought to the sultan, who was pleased because he thought they wanted to become Muslims. “On the contrary,” Francis said. “We have a message that you should surrender your soul to God.” With this introduction, he proclaimed the triune God and Jesus Christ the Savior of all. When the sultan was advised to behead them, he said no, and invited them to stay on as guests. Francis said, “If you are willing to become converts of Christ, you and your people, I shall only be too glad to stay with you.”
Such a response to Arab hospitality was unheard of. Francis then offered to walk through fire if it would help convince the Muslim leader. If he came out unharmed the sultan should be prepared to embrace Christ. The sultan demurred, but was impressed, and offered presents, which Francis declined to accept. Kamil became even more amazed and permitted him to preach the gospel in his house and compound. Upon his departure the sultan asked the friar to pray that God would show him the right way.
Lord, grant me the courage to not hide who you’ve made me to be. Please help me say what you want me to say when you want me to say it. May I be a sign always pointing in your direction..
Grace and Mercy à This way.
Complete post about St. Francis: