EL CAJON, Calif. (BP)–She thought she had gotten away with it. Francisca Rojas of Buenos Aires, Argentina, had murdered two of her own sons. In an attempt to deflect the blame, she had cut her own throat as well, then blamed the attack on a nearby ranch worker named Velasquez. Though the poor man proclaimed his innocence, he was arrested.
An Argentine police official named Juan Vucetich, however, had been experimenting with a new-fangled system of criminal identity — fingerprints. It was 1891, and fingerprints had never been used in a criminal trial. Revisiting the scene of the attack, Vucetich studied the bloody handprint on the doorframe of Francisca’s house. It matched the prints of Francisca’s own fingers. As a result, Francisca became the first person in history to be convicted of a crime based on fingerprint identification.
Today the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) electronically stores millions of known fingerprints. In this world of six billion people, every person leaves his own unique mark.
There’s another sense in which we leave our mark behind us. Every one of us leaves our fingerprints on the lives of other people, especially on our children. We don’t stay on earth forever; but after we’re gone, our imprint remains.
One of the most vivid examples is John Geddie, Canadian missionary to the New Hebrides. He found a wild tribe of cannibals. Violence, theft, and warfare were common. After he died, a commemorative tablet in his island church read: “In memory of John Geddie…. When he landed in 1848, there were no Christians here, and when he left in 1872, there were no heathen.”
You and I may not be responsible for converting an entire island, but the world will be different for our having lived a faithful life. What, then, can we do to leave our fingerprints behind us?
— The fingerprint of the Word
Our children see us spending hours before the television. But when was the last time your child found you pouring over God’s Word?
Ruth Graham once explained why she became a lifelong student of Scripture. “Each morning … my father — a busy missionary surgeon in China — would be sitting reading his Bible. At night … my mother would be doing the same. Anything that could so capture the … devotion of those I … loved the most … must be worth investigating. So at an early age I began reading my Bible.”
— The fingerprint of honesty,
It’s also important to live an honest life, for those closest to us (especially our kids) are quick to pick up on personal inconsistencies.
— The fingerprint of prayer
We must also leave a legacy of prayer. A young J. Wilbur Chapman was elected pastor of a church. On his first Sunday, an elderly man said: “I am afraid you will not make it as pastor here. This is a large church with great responsibility falling upon its pastor. We need a man with equally large experience. … But I have resolved to pray for you every day … and I have made a covenant with two other men to do the same.”
This prayer band grew to hundreds. Within three years, more than 1,100 people had professed Christ as Savior. All because one infirm, elderly man made up his mind to leave an imprint of prayer.
— The fingerprint of an enduring testimony.
Most of all, Christians must leave behind the imprint of an enduring testimony. Paul told Timothy, “The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
With almost her last breath, a mother confessed her decision to follow Christ and left the legacy of an enduring testimony that bore fruit more than two decades later when her son asked Christ into his heart. Don’t underestimate the power of sharing Christ. His Word does not return to Him void, and our work in the Lord is never in vain (Isaiah 55:11; 1 Corinthians 15:58).
Is your influence the kind that Christ can use to change the lives of others? What kind imprint are you leaving?
David Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and chancellor of San Diego Christian College (formerly Christian Heritage College). For more information on Turning Point, visit www.TurningPointOnline.org.