Written by Diane C. Fernald

Several years ago a freak accident took the lives of two brothers in their early 40s – my friend Jake and his brother Chris. They were killed instantly in a head-on collision with a truck one rainy evening on their way to a basketball game.

Offering my condolences to Jake’s family at his wake, I stood in a long line of mourners, all waiting patiently to share their memories of Jake with his wife and three teenage children. 

In my waiting, I heard stories of generosity, integrity, love, and commitment. A single mom recounted how Jake had quietly paid her rent for a couple of months when she lost her job. A co-worker remembered how Jake refused to allow a bullying coworker to influence his commitment to integrity in one of their projects. An entire soccer team stood quietly in line, nine-year-olds stricken with the loss of their coach and friend. 

His legacy to his family, friends, and community was beautifully reflected in the people whose lives he had touched.  

In contrast, the gathering across the hall for Chris seemed mostly quiet whisperings, shocked faces, forced smiles. No stories, no hugs, no tears. Simply a quiet, empty corner where a grieving family struggled with friends to make sense of their loss.  

Maybe it was just a question of timing that I experienced such a drastic difference. But what stuck with me was that it’s possible to leave a rich legacy of love and generosity that forever impact family and community. Sadly, it’s also possible to simply leave. 

Jake’s legacy was powerful because he had a clear sense of his identity in Christ, and he stood firm in that identity. He lived his life faithfully, with love and care for everyone around him. Jake believed he was the lamp on the hill, a light in the world, and salt of the earth. He intentionally lived his life to leave behind a legacy rich in love, generosity, and integrity to his family and community. He was a man well-loved in life because he first loved well.  

But how do we leave such a legacy? A legacy that is loving, impactful, and transformative? How do we live today to impact our family and the world for tomorrow?

Consider these first steps to leaving a powerful legacy:

Legacy is intentional. We don’t leave a powerful legacy by accident. Being intentional is key to making a difference in the world after we’re gone. How we live matters. If we know our identity is in Jesus, then we must acknowledge our responsibility to live out that very identity with the same love Jesus shows to everyone. Our destiny is no less than changing the world. Living life intentionally brings that destiny closer to its fulfilment.

Legacy is relational. Legacy is lived out one life at a time, walked out one step at a time. Jesus understood the power of relationship. He knew His identity as the Son of God and lived out that identity with his disciples. He walked with them as beloved rabbi and friend. He ate and slept with them, showing them how to live with love and care for all. No one would argue about Jesus’ legacy. It has survived 20 centuries. It still lives today.

Legacy is living with passion. To leave a legacy, we must tap into God’s passionate love of the people He created. Certain of our identity in Christ, we take up our cross, and live a life filled with passion for others. When we channel our passion into the lives of others, lives are changed, communities are transformed. For example, Jake was a faithful member of the town’s school board. He volunteered once a month as a tutor in the computer lab at the local high school. His passionate actions fueled a legacy in his community that will impact future generations. 

What are the needs in your family or community that you cannot ignore? What brings out your passion, your love, your desire to change the world? Follow those passions, and you will be on the right path to leaving a powerful and lasting legacy.

Legacy is more than wealth. Yes, legacy often involves blessing others with money and gifts. But it is so much more than that. Leaving a powerful legacy is about being intentional in loving and caring for people while we are alive. We sow into the lives of others by our actions, not just by our dollars. One life impacted because of another person’s time and loving care can bring about more change and good in the world than a thousand billion-dollar legacies.  

A powerful and lasting legacy says: Don’t show me the money, show me Jesus.