By Dr. Hal Brady
How are we going to live? How will we be remembered? What legacy will we leave behind?
Sometimes we can tell about the legacy a person leaves behind simply by walking through the cemetery. View several of these epitaphs and see what they tell us about the person who died.
On a tombstone in Cambridge, England, these words were written about an Anglican priest: “Here lies Father William who served as vicar of this church for more than 30 years without the slightest bit of enthusiasm.”
From a cemetery in Nova Scotia: “Here lies Ezekiel Ikle, age 102. The good die young.”
On a tombstone in a Georgia cemetery: “I told you I was sick.”
Now, these tombstones tell us a lot about the lives that were led and the legacies that were left behind.
As “Biography” magazine had it on its cover a few years ago, “Every life has a story.” And it does. But what is the story that is left behind?
Abraham Lincoln was once asked how he would like to be remembered.
It is interesting that he did not ask history to recall him as president or as the leader of his country in troubled times. He said he hoped it would be said that, “He plucked a thistle and planted a flower where a flower would grow.” It is little wonder that Abraham Lincoln is remembered with great fondness and appreciation. People who plant flowers where thorns have grown can be sure their epitaph will read: “Gone, but not forgotten.”
We are taking about legacy. Most normal human beings want to leave something worthwhile as they depart this world. For best results, we take our cue from Jesus. You see, it is his legacy to humankind that overshadows and dwarfs all other combined legacies of humankind. And note that his legacy is not a marble statue or anything like that but a living force.
Needless to say, Jesus’ legacy reflects his life. It was and is a legacy of love, and it cost him his life.
For a moment, I want to mention four practical guidelines for a legacy of love. First, be aware! There’s a chapter in the late Bishop Bevel Jones’ book, “One Step Beyond Caution,” called “A Mother’s Influence.” In that chapter, Bishop Jones spoke of some of the things his mother gave him.
“Mother took every opportunity to create awareness and a sense of wonder in me. I can hear mother now bemoaning the fate of a crippled animal or fallen sparrow. She would have me virtually in tears over the plight of a neighbor in trouble or some person who was down and out. But that compassion was coupled with the compulsion to exceed. Mother was allergic to mediocrity.”
Then Bishop Jones said, “The longer I live the more I think about what my folks bequeathed to me and what I am passing on to my children and grandchildren. It is no disgrace not to leave an estate. But it is tragic to leave no legacy.”
Second, be engaged! We will never leave a legacy of love if we don’t stay engaged with the world. Someone observed, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
Personally, I don’t know of a life worth living or a loving action taken that can be reduced to a sound bite. Stay engaged!
Third, be humble! Prideful people never leave a legacy of love. It’s the humble people that we remember and admire.
As has been stated, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves; it is thinking about ourselves less.” Love’s challenge is making life less about “me” and more about others.
Fourth, be kind! Kindness is many things. It’s how we treat friends and strangers and clerks. It’s how we drive our automobiles, respond over the telephone and remember an important date in someone’s life. It’s a thoughtful word, a warm smile and a little more patience. Kindness makes the sandwich!
What Jesus left for us is the love of the Father. I’m taking about the forgiving, creative and consistent love that will stand forever in a world of prejudice, division and discord. It’s a legacy that values highly the godly nature of our relationships with our fellow human beings.
So what is the legacy that we will leave behind? Jesus left a legacy of love and so can we.
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries (halbradyministries.com).