As I have tried to explore over the past several weeks, a Christian’s definition of legacy should be very different from the world’s view of legacy. As always, the challenge is being in the world but not of the world. Being in the world, we look around and see people lauded for accomplishments like hit movies, amazing touchdowns, or making loads of money. It is so tempting to fall into the trap of defining our own success by these definitions, putting our emphasis on having a house that looks like the ones on HGTV or driving a car that is just as nice as the one in the driveway next door. Sometimes, these things in the world are so ingrained in the subconscious that we don’t even realize that what is driving us is world-like and not God-like.
But being in the world yet not of the world is something very different, the core challenge, really, of what it means to be Christian. Christians, in being Christ-like, are encouraged to be fruitful, to sow the seeds of Christ’s love in their everyday lives, in the world, in such a way that the Light that is Christ shines to show the way to a better kind of life.
In Galatians, Paul defines the fruit of the Spirit, which is actually a series of characteristics that together complete the picture of a Christ-like life, the qualities you should be able to see in a person who is really living according to the guidance of the Spirit within him/her, the Spirit Christ promised would come to us when we are baptized in Him. This person sows “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (5:22-23).
I don’t think it is an accident in duplication that Jesus’ many parables ask us to consider the fruit of the vine, encourage us to bear fruit, and even admonishes those who are unfruitful, and Paul’s description of the final result of the indwelling Spirit in a believer likewise using the concept of fruit. Even though we do not gain salvation by our actions but through grace, once we are Christians, we should want to leave a God-like legacy, at the core of which is living by letting the Spirit guide us.
Paul makes it clear where the Spirit will guide us, if we will only listen, as he tells the Galatians, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (5:13).
A legacy that reflects Christ is a “hard row to hoe” as they say in my neck of the woods, but, fortunately, we are not meant to hoe that row alone. The Spirit of God in me gives me the strength and insight to fulfill the opportunities God gives me, if I will only let that Spirit work.
I have the list of the fruit of the Spirit posted in several places in my house, trying to remind myself of what I should be concentrating on. But, the evil one is always there to push me in other directions, make me concentrate on my inner issues instead of looking out toward other people, keeping me from letting the Spirit help me with my problems as I try to control my world all by myself. I needed Jesus to be saved, right? So, why do I think I won’t need Jesus to live out my salvation, including improving on things like being more patient, having self-control, and, of course, loving others.
Will your legacy be the fruit of the Spirit, not just for your own loved ones, but for every person you come in contact with? We will reap the Spirit only if we sow it, and we can only sow the Spirit with the Spirit’s help.