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FIRST-PERSON: A legacy that would make a difference

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–With New Year’s Day a recent memory, our yearly resolutions come to mind easily. Mine are like so many others’. Eat less. Give more. Get in shape. Get out of debt. Read the Good Book. Finish the others I’ve started. And so on and so on.

The great American preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards was a man of resolutions as well. Between the ages of 19 and 20, Edwards compiled a list of 70 resolutions by which he intended to live his life. The first and last of these resolutions reflect the spiritual sensitivity of Edwards:

#1. “Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory and to my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now or never so many myriad of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how ever so many and how ever so great.”

#70. “Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.”

During the holidays I found myself in our nation’s capital and thinking of Jonathan Edwards and his resolutions. On a warm winter day, surrounded by the chilling reminders at the National Museum of the Holocaust, Edwards’ ninth resolution came to mind: “Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying.”

One can hardly visit the museum and not think of death. It’s everywhere. It’s on the walls. It’s on the TVs. In some places, it’s on the very floor that you walk across. As I thought about those horrific events and the depths of human depravity they reflect, I couldn’t help but think of my own death. I wasn’t concerned so much about what death itself is like but what story my life would tell to those who might someday reflect upon it. I thought about what my family would remember. I thought about my children and the example I’ve set. I thought about the legacy I would leave behind.

The Bible speaks of our legacy. Moses clearly had this in mind when he wrote Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Plainly said, we are to live our Christian lives in such a way that everyone watching, including our children, see our faith and know that we love God with our entire being. That is to be our legacy.

As a father of two young children, that means I have to live my life consistently, sharing the love of Christ with all I meet, allowing my faith to make a difference in my life and the lives of those around me. For me, that means I need to be the kind of Christian I want my children to be. I must, along with Edwards, be “resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die” (#17). In other words, I must live today how I want to be remembered tomorrow.

For our churches and our denomination, there’s a word of admonition in Edwards, too, for our collective legacy is on the line as well. While it is a new year, it has been 30 years since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand. During that time, more than 40 million unborn Americans have lost their lives. And, like the photos of those poor souls hanging on the walls of the Holocaust museum, these children have a story to tell. Unfortunately, many in our churches have lost their voices, their will to fight and, like so many Protestant churches in Nazi Germany, they sit silently by hoping that someone else will come to the rescue. Is this how we want to be remembered? Is this the legacy that Baptists wish to leave?

May this year be the year that Southern Baptists resolve to make a difference. May this year be the year that we resolve, with Edwards, “to take some deliberate action that seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God” (#23). May this year be the year that we “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8).
Beck is director of marketing at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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  • Peter Beck