Yesterday’s post regarding legacy promoted this response and query from a reader.
He shared a story about a church leader he knew who used his time, talent and resources to build the church in his community. This involved his physical as well as spiritual efforts. He was highly respected within the church and the community at large.
However, an egregious sin brought shame and reproach not only upon on him, but on the church where he had labored for so many years and had made such a profound difference.
Immediately, the man admitted his sin, repented, publicly confessed his wrongs and resigned from his position of leadership. Not long afterward he and his wife moved from the community and are reported to be doing well.
The reader’s question and comment involved how sad it was that one bad decision forever changed the way he would be remembered and his legacy.
This is not an isolated story. It has been repeated over and over again throughout the years.
This response elicited several thoughts which I commend for your reflection.
#1 One abhorrent sin can bring shame to a person and undo so much of the good they have accomplish in a lifetime. And while there are no big sins and little sins in God’s eyes, some sins have a greater impact and more devastating effect. Adultery. Murder. Drunken driving. Child or spousal abuse. And more. These may have a permanent impact on one’s legacy.
#2 There is however a positive aspect of the story that the man realized his sin, admitted it, and sought to make correction as far as was possible. He didn’t try to hold on to a leadership position that had been soiled with sin. No doubt, in deference to both his family and church family, he realized that it was in everyone’s best interest to remove himself from the area to minimize further fallout. This is to be commended. It demonstrated humility. Thoughtfulness. And a concern for the interests of others.
#3 This story reveals that there is a difference between reputation and legacy. The man severely harmed his reputation and standing both in the church and in the community. However if you fast forward 50 or 100 years from now and the church where he labored recovers and continues to build on the foundation he laid, then his work will still have a lasting impact. His name may be unknown to future generations, but the good that he did and the seed he sowed will continue to bear fruit. And make a difference in the lives of those yet unborn. God’s word will never return void. It will accomplish His purpose (Isa. 55:11).
#4 The Good News is that by God’s grace, love and mercy, any sin can be forgiven (Isa. 1:18; 1Jn.1:7-10; Ps.103:12). While our poor decisions may lessen our influence and impact our legacy, we can receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ and be saved.
#5 If the Lord gives such a one many more years to live, it may be possible that he can repair his reputation, and in another setting do good and even rebuild his legacy. Maybe.
This story reminded me of another man I read about. He was well known. Respected by his people. And was a tireless servant of God. However, in a moment of weakness he committed adultery. Sadly, he exercised extreme measures to over it up, but was ultimately confronted for his sin. To his credit he came clean. Confessed it. And used his brokenness, shame and contrition as a means to help others
We know this man today, as “a man after God’s own heart.” Yes, I’m talking about King David (1 Sam. 13:14; Ax. 13:22). While his sin is a black mark on his resume, he still stands centuries later as a man to be admired, with an attitude to be emulated.
These observations are not intended to justify sin or minimize its seriousness nor understate its consequences. But to provide perspective. And offer help and hope for others in a similar situation.
In the final analysis two things are true.
(1) When a righteous man commits iniquity, God will not remember his righteousness, but will judge him for his sin (Ezek. 18:24).
(2) However, if the righteous man who has sinned, genuinely repents, returns to the Lord, and seeks renewal , like David, he can be cleansed and restored to once again experience the joy of his salvation (Ps.51).
Indeed, as the hymnist proclaimed, “God’s grace is greater than all our sins.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman