According to an old story, Alfred Nobel picked up a newspaper one morning and read an account of his death. It seems a relative had died and the reporter mistakenly assumed it was the famed inventor. As Nobel read the article, he was disturbed about the way he was being remembered. Consequently, he resolved to use the remainder of his days to change that record.
Apparently, his efforts were successful. Not many people remember that Nobel invented dynamite, but most school children can tell you about the Nobel Peace Prize, and related awards.
A few years ago in a newspaper editorial, the editor referred to this story and asked a poignant question, “If you were asked to predict your own epitaph, can you imagine what it would be?” Now, there may be something morbid about that question. Life is simply too short to be spent thinking about its end. But occasionally, most of us wonder how we will be remembered.
I’m talking about legacy. Most normal human beings want to leave something worthwhile as they depart from this world.
But, in reality, only a small fraction of people in any one generation will leave anything that will long be remembered even by a small community, much less the world.
However, most of us desire to leave a legacy anyway. What then can we leave?
Now, before I get to the heart of this article, I want to acknowledge the Memorial Day legacy. It is my understanding that Memorial Day was inaugurated in 1868 by General John A. Logan for the purpose of decorating the graves of Civil War veterans. Years have passed, and there have been numerous other wars and police actions. Today, the graves of American soldiers are scattered all over the world, and each lonely marker reminds us of the tremendous price that has been paid to preserve our freedom.
Memorial Day is a special time of reflection and gratitude. We pause to remember the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives so that those freedoms can still continue. Memorial Day, then, is the legacy of American sacrifice for freedom.
But as I previously mentioned, most of us desire to leave a legacy anyway. We desire to leave something that will remind future generations that this is what he/she contributed to the world. So what then can we leave?
We take our cue from Jesus! For it is his legacy to humankind that over shadows and dwarfs all other combined legacies of humankind. And his legacy is not a marble statue or anything like that but a living active force.
Almost needless to say, Jesus’ legacy reflects his life. It is a legacy of love, and it cost him his life.
What Jesus left for us is the love of the Father! I’m talking about the forgiving creative love that will stand forever in a world of prejudice and hatred. It’s a legacy that values highly the godly nature of our relationship
with our fellow human beings. And it’s a legacy of love that often stands alone in the desolate battlefields of evil and stubbornly declares that loving our neighbor-and even our enemy-is the only way.
A short time after the War Between the States, a church in Washington, D.C., was celebrating Holy Communion. As the minister called the people to come to the altar to receive the sacrament, suddenly the back door of the church opened and an African American man who was a former slave walked in, came down the center aisle, and knelt at the altar.
This had never happened before. African Americans and slaves had come to the church, and even been members, but they always stayed up in the balcony.
The congregation sat there stunned. Tensions were still high. No one seemed to know what to do. Then one white man stood up, walked to the altar, and knelt right beside the former slave. The minister served them communion, others came forward and the service went on.
After the service the white man was questioned about his actions. “How could you do that?” one outraged man asked. He answered, “My friend, all ground is level beneath the cross.”
By the way, you may recognize that white man’s name — General Robert E. Lee.
At any rate, what he said is everlastingly true: “All ground beneath the cross is level.” Such is the legacy of love!