Leaving A Legacy
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservent, and coming in the likeness of men.
Philippians 2: 5-7
We usually think of someone’s legacy as a stellar achievement or an accumulation of wealth. Christ’s legacy, though, is quite different. His life is remembered as one of service instead of power, one of giving instead of achieving earthly success.
At the heart of Jesus’ legacy is selfless love that values others over Himself. He had it made in heaven. He lived in the fullness of glory, attended by angels and without a care in the world. Because He loved us, He made a choice to stoop to our level, to connect with us in a way we could understand (if not always accept), and to serve us to the nth degree by dying as our substitute.
The more we grasp how much Christ gave up and how much He gave, the more we’ll be amazed at His love, and the more we’ll want to emulate Him. Who are the people around us who need our love? They are the people we see everywhere: next to us in our beds, down the hall in our homes, in the next office, next door in our neighborhoods. They’re the people we talk to on the phone and those we email. Leaving a great legacy is pouring out our lives for them, speaking truth to them, encouraging them to do the right thing for God’s sake, celebrating when they do, and forgiving when they don’t. Thankfully, our lives are peppered with people who are leaving a legacy like this. It could be a gracious grandmother, a loving nurse, a faithful friend, a forgiving dad, or a generous boss. These people are leaving a powerful legacy of selfless care. We can too.
No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it.
George Washington Carver
We may never be a Paul and leave behind letters that became almost two thirds of the New Testament, nor the Westleys who left the Methodist Church, but all of us will leave some kind of legacy. There will be those who will leave sad legacies. And not every legacy left will be one that inspires or positively influences future generations. We, however, have the choice as to what our legacy will be.
What will you be known for when those who know you share the stories of your life? Will you be known as an example of a spouse who loved, was committed to, and cared for your spouse? Will you be known as the parent who nurtured, trained, loved and took time for your children? Will you be known for your kindness and help to your neighbors? Will your former employers tell the stories of your work ethic and your work quality? All of these things and how we have responded to each will become the stories of our lives and will have the potential to influence those who follow after us. Our example as spouses have the capacity to influence the spouse our children will become and how they treat their spouse. Our example as parents has incredible impact on our children and how they interact with their children. Our example as a good neighbor has the potential to influence the entire community to show kindness and care. And our work ethic, attitude, and quality has the potential of influencing future generations of workers. Sometimes we think that we are insignificant nobodies and for the most part, ignored by those around us. But the truth is that everyone has influence and each of us will leave behind a legacy. Maybe we might only influence one person but that one person we influence may go on to influencing thousands so it’s important for us to think about our legacy.
The most important legacy we can leave is a legacy of being a Christ-follower. The material things we leave behind may not last. Our descendants may quickly spend the money, sell the property and dispose of heirlooms, but if we leave a spiritual legacy, it will never diminish. This causes us to ask ourselves what spiritual legacy are we leaving to the next generation. Will we leave them a model of one who takes everything to God in prayer? Or will we leave them a model of one who attempts to solve the issues of life with every human means possible and only when those attempts fail, do we turn to God in prayer? When it’s time to gather with the family of God will our legacy be one of enthusiasm and anticipation or will our descendants perceive that our attendance is one of obligation and our participation minimal? What will they perceive as priorities? Will they see that our career, our hobbies, and other activities occupy first place and our walk with God having to find a place to squeeze in or will they see that our relationship with God takes first priority and all the other things of life having to fit themselves in?
We dare not just think that we live for ourselves and that what we are and do is only important for us. We must consider that as Jesus tarries future generations and their choices hangs on our legacy. The priorities, conduct, ethics, and lifestyles of every generation has a powerful effect on the succeeding generation whether for the good or for the bad. Succeeding generations reap the legacy of preceding generations.
If you and I could view the future, what would we like to see working in our children and their children? If we could see the future, what would we like to see in our community? If we could see the future of the church, what would we like to see? That’s the value of legacy. We choose to live our lives in such a way that future generations can benefit from our living and example.
Dr. John Thompson