“And so this is good-bye. You’re not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have gone among for so long proclaiming the news of God’s inaugurated kingdom. I’ve done my best for you, given you my all, held back nothing of God’s will for you.
“Now it’s up to you. Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for. (THE MESSAGE)
Most of us have heard eulogies delivered at funerals. Most of them movingly testify to the legacy left behind by the one who has died. Not many words are spoken about the money they made, or the enriched bank accounts of children or grandchildren. Much more is said about the character of the person, the good deeds they did and the example they set.
None of us wants to die and be utterly forgotten. True, in time we will be forgotten unless we are one of those few “great ones” whose names live on for centuries. But at least for a time, our legacies can linger and make our small worlds a better place.
When Paul farewelled the church leaders at Ephesus, he knew he was leaving a legacy. It consisted of faithful communication by word and example of the truth of Jesus. He guided them towards greater maturity and thus greater competence in guiding church members to such maturity.
He left his mark, not simply as a human being, but as a human being who was an instrument of the grace and truth of God. He did not exploit them or use them as a springboard for his own personal ambitions. And he realised, as we must realise, that while we can leave a valuable legacy behind us, we can’t live others’ lives for them. We let go, either by geographical departure or by death.
And so we ask ourselves the question. What legacy will we leave behind? We are not to grieve because we might be forgotten, but we are to hope we will be remembered as imperfect but authentic channels of the grace and truth of Jesus.