I’ve had the honor to attend many funerals as a pastor. Some funerals are marked by deep loss and pain. Others are highlighted by joyful hope. Faithful Christians leave a strong legacy behind them because they lived their lives in order to encourage and strengthen others. These services are full of stories and “remember when’s” that, though told through tears, radiate a deep joy and hope because that person’s life was shaped by their faith in Jesus Christ.
I am convinced the worst thing that can happen is not to be hated, but to be forgotten. This is why children who crave attention would rather have negative attention (discipline and punishment) than to be ignored.
The Bible gives a clear warning through the life of King Jehoram in 2 Chronicles 21,
“When Jehoram had established himself over his father’s kingdom, he strengthened his position by killing with the sword all his brothers as well as some of the princes of Israel…. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, but for the sake of the covenant the Lord had made with David, he was unwilling to destroy the house of David since the Lord had promised to give a lamp to David and to his sons forever…. Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king; he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. He died to no one’s regret and was buried in the city of David but not in the tombs of the kings.”
Jehoram got ahead in life – he had money, power, and position. But he lost it all, because it was gained by his own might and for his own benefit. The LORD only showed him grace because of His covenant with David. Eventually, God struck Jehoram down and the people rejoiced. His life and legacy serves as a warning for each of us today.
Rather than living to set up our own kingdoms, may we be remembered as faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). This is the Christian calling: To know Christ and to make him known.
Here are three characteristics I’ve observed about the faithful men and women who have left godly legacies.
Pride and humility can’t coexist. These men and women have reminded me of the ongoing need to battle pride and to pursue humility. The grace of God fuels humility, because we have accepted the fact that we are fully loved and fully accepted because of Christ’s work on our behalf (not because we earned it).
Garrett Kell recently wrote on twitter, “Pride hates to be called humility. Humility doesn’t care what you call it.” I think he’s absolutely right! How you respond to the accusation of pride reveals whether or not it’s true.
Generosity goes beyond financial giving. The most memorable praise I have heard at funerals is regarding people’s generosity with their time and hospitality in their home.
It’s very possible to give away lots of money while being stingy with your time and relationships. When this is true, it’s like you’re treating people as a problem to be “taken care of” rather than loved. Give away your time and attention, not simply your money.
Unashamed of Christ
In the end, this is what marks the Christian legacy as different from others. As mentioned above, the Christian mission is to know Christ and to make him known. If we die and leave behind a legacy full of people who say wonderful things about us, but we haven’t brought anyone into a saving relationship with God through faith in the gospel, then we have impacted others’ lives, but we haven’t made an eternal impact.
Can we say along with the Apostle Paul,
“I have resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
(1 Corinthians 2:2)
May this be the theme of our lives – making Christ known. When we live out of the grace of God, we will not have a legacy like King Jehoram whose death was never mourned. If you want your life to make an eternal difference, the only way forward is through the drive of the gospel.