A friend’s recent passing got me thinking about my legacy today. What is it that I have to leave behind? I know that we are supposed to live our lives for the Lord and not for the glories of humans but by legacy I am talking about the things that I have done to make other’s lives easier, the connections with God that I have left, and the example of how to be a good man I have been.
Way back in 1995 DC Talk asked,
“What if I stumble?℗ 1995 ForeFront Records
What if I fall?
What if I lose my step and make fools of us all?
Will the love continue when the walk becomes a crawl?
What if I stumble?
What if I fall?”
It’s a question we all face, isn’t it? DC Talk, coming from their position as the top Christian Music act of their time, was thinking of what consequences would result if the realities of life were discovered by their fans. Not many of us have the fame or fans of DC Talk but all of us have those we want to impact. It may be family members. It may be friends. It may be those we minister to. Even though we are not building up treasures on earth, we do want to make an impact for God’s Kingdom while we can. After all, Jesus’ final command to us before returning to heaven was “Make disciples of all nations.”
That’s why I thought the verse that I discussed in today’s TikTok was appropriate.
‘But if we live in the light in the same way that God is in the light, we have a relationship with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin. If we say, “We aren’t sinful” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong. If we say, “We have never sinned,” we turn God into a liar and his Word is not in us.’ 1 John 1:7-10
These verses makes it clear that none of us are perfect. All of us engage in sin. All of us struggle with making things right. The solution offered is confession and forgiveness. Both of these together make up what we commonly refer to as an apology. What does that look like and is it possible in situations like this? Keep in mind that I am no expert in these things but maybe we can fumble through it together.
Confession is when I admit to someone else some things that I have done are wrong. Here is where problems often arise. I am not very good at this part. Sometimes I find myself saying, “I am sorry that you felt that way.” This is not really confession because it doesn’t acknowledge that I have done something wrong only that the other person felt a certain way around it. Sometimes I confess only a portion of what I have done wrong — the portion that is perhaps the most palatable for me to accept, maybe? Or perhaps the portion that I can speak about without a deep feeling of shame. For me, confession is a process as I move through these stages towards the actual issue that needs addressing in my own life.
The next stage in an apology is forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard because it means giving up my rights to retribution. Regardless of how well-crafted or thought out the confession portion is, the offended party needs to actively forgive. The Jesus-follower has a different basis for offering forgiveness. Rather than waiting for the offender to admit they were wrong and ask for help, Jesus asks us to forgive first. Why is this? Because that’s exactly what Jesus did. The Bible tells us that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. He didn’t wait and so he asks us to imitate him.
What is interesting is that someone can confess even without forgiveness. Someone can also forgive even without confession. That means my forgiveness isn’t dependent upon the quality of the apology, if any, given by my offender. Nor is my confession dependent upon eventually being forgiven. But when both of those things happen reconciliation happens, too.
We reap what we sow and that is true in this case as well. It would be easy for me to say, “Well, Jesus asks you to forgive me before I ask for it so I don’t need to do anything.” This is actually a rather embarrassing situation to put oneself in because in one sentence I both accept Jesus’ forgiveness for me but reject any offense I may have caused you.
It actually is worse than this. The Bible also tells us that God will avenge us. But we know how that turned out don’t we? God’s idea of vengeance is sending Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world. So, rather than assuming (hoping??) that our enemies will face God’s wrath, what happens instead is that Jesus, through his death and resurrection, forgives them, just as he forgives us.
Back to me and my friend. I know that he loved the bible. He read it. He studied it. He memorised it. He argued using it. But he had problems living it. Apart from his relationship problems, he also had several vices. And at this point it is now only between him and God.
But what about me? I, too, love the bible. I, too, read it. I, too, study it. I, too, have memorised small portions of it. I even go further and teach it. And I, too, have problems living it.
Being at the wake made me wish that when it’s time for my own funeral that my kids will want to be there. Not because I am now dead but because I have left something good behind. It leads me to ask some questions:
Has my love for the bible caused me to love others too or merely love my own knowledge? Has my reading of the bible led me to be a better father and husband or merely to fit into a mold? Has my teaching others the bible meant that I also have taught myself or do I think that I already know it all? In my authority have I remained humble or have I lorded it over others? These are tough questions.
But it’s not all bad. There are moments of hope in the midst of darkness. A desire to see justice reign is hopeful. A desire to go to God’s word when facing problems is hopeful. A desire to be a part of a faith community is hopeful. And sometimes we see things when it’s too late. Words of friends who knew a different side of him. Remembered fragments of a life lived. Hope in the midst of hopeless. A challenge to live my life better in light of the shortcomings of others.
What legacies are you trying to live up to? Or perhaps live down? Why not leave a comment below?
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Image by the blowup on Unsplash.
Thanks for your reflections on leaving a legacy. I appreciate your humble acknowledgement “Keep in mind that I am no expert in these things but maybe we can fumble through it together.”
When Ann was diagnosed with Lewy-Body disease in 2012, our son sent us two books “The Heritage of a Mother” and the “Heritage of a Father.” Hundreds of questions in both, which over the course of a few weekend outings, we completed. We selected 17 questions from the former to be part of a Q & A event at Ann’s funeral early March of this year. One of the questions identified Ann’s favourite song “The Love of God”. It was at that point where the soloist came and sang that song, followed by a few words of the impact that Ann had on her life.
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Thanks for that beautiful image, Al. Praying with you as you continue to grieve.