The old adage, “Time flies when you’re having fun” has growing merit the older a person becomes. I find such a statement especially true in my own life as Nancy and I find ourselves in our golden years together. Having so much of the reality of life under our belts we look around and understand that it might be more truthful to say, “Time flies even when you’re not having fun, and that the golden years for many are not guaranteed to be made of precious metal”. The point being; no matter what; good bad or otherwise, life is merely a breath. Like the prophet Isaiah has said, “And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” The hard reality is each one of us only has a brief time to leave a lasting mark here on planet earth. To leave any kind of a legacy of inspiration for others to follow we must live our lives with absolute resolve and intentionality.
As I now reflect back on Nancy’s and my journey over these past 50 years I not only recognize how blessed our life together has been, but also how purposefully and deliberate we have tried to be a blessing beyond ourselves. Although we have experienced many failures along the way we can’t help but have gratitude in our hearts for all God has done as we have endeavored to be faithful to his command to love. I say this as the finish line of our journey begins to appear on the not too distant horizon. Knowing what I know now, observing our life in retrospect, I can say with honesty that if we have accomplished anything good together it was because of whatever efforts we made, either consciously or by impulse, it was motivated by love.
When I say love, I don’t simply mean the love we have had for each other all these years, but rather our love for broken humanity, for the creation we have been given the privilege to inhabit and more importantly, for the one who created it through love. The Bible tells us, “For God so loved the world…”. A Godly legacy is dependent on our ability to tap into His authentic love. The ultimate marks we leave behind us will hinge little on our accomplishments but instead on how effectively we received and expressed that kind of love.
The Apostle John tells us (1 John 4) we live in a world where the spirit of the antichrist is not only present, but threatens humankind spiritually, emotionally and even physically. He goes on to tell us that God is love and that anyone who authentically loves has accepted God’s love for humanity. The Apostle Paul defines love for us. He shares not only the attributes of what love is, but also what it isn’t. Most folks have heard this passage from 1 Corinthians 13 read in weddings or even funerals along the way, but few have taken the time to look at what is said in depth. In the passage Paul tells us “if we have not love we gain nothing”. We gain nothing of importance in this life and therefore our lives will account for nothing of true meaning; thus there will be no lasting positive legacy.
The following is a breakdown of the list Paul gives us:
- patient and kind
Love does not:
- envy or boast
- is not arrogant or rude
- does not insist on its own way
- is not irritable or resentful
- does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth
Then Paul adds; “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.”
Therefore, the list above not only defines love, but in so doing, illuminates the nature of God because, as John tells us, “God is love”. Not only that, but for those who know God, they will also be known for these same attributes. Because Christ is God incarnate, these attributes are then a definition of true Christ-likeness. The opposite of this list (boastfulness, arrogance, rudeness, being self absorbed, irritable, resentful and untruthful) then gives the reader a picture of the opposite of the nature of Christ or as John said, “The spirit of the antichrist”. That is, one who is anti-Christ-like in character, attitude and behavior.
A true follower of Christ will not only have the discernment to see the difference but will resist it. We are told in scripture that in the last days there will be calamity on the earth and many antichrists will appear and deceive people. It is also at that time that Jesus said, “the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24). The litmus test of Christ-likeness is Paul’s definition of love. We must hold it up not only to our own lives but also those we decide to put our trust in. In this way will not be deceived but rather to live in such a way which will positively impact the world around us. Because God will perfect in his people, (those who will not be deceived) hearts full of love it will be easier in the midst of fear and calamity for people to leave positive lasting life legacies. John tells us that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (John 4:18). Love therefore is not only an antidote against being fearful, but it will instead empower us to be agents of hope. We are presently entering a time where anxiety and fear is permeating our culture. More than ever it is a time where perfect love is desperately needed. As for Nancy and I, it is our objective to live out our final years together in such a way that we might leave a Godly legacy in our wake. Love is the key to a lasting legacy because as Paul said, “Love never ends”.