A Legacy of Love

Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly influencing others.  As humans, we are naturally wired to watch and learn from others, to follow, adore, and imitate our fellow human beings.  As Christians, we can all point to at least one person who played a key role in our decision to follow Christ.  There is no denying the fact that our relationships with other people have been the largest influence on the course of our lives.  Imagine what a position of power in which that places each of us.  Every person you relate to, and even the state of our world today and tomorrow, can and will be affected by you for good or for evil.

When I think about this, I am prompted to ask myself what I can do to insure that my overall impact is for the good of others and to the glory of God, as well as how I can maximize my positive influence to the greatest degree.  How can I be sure that what I build on God’s foundation in Jesus Christ proves to have value on the judgment day (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-13)?

As I reflect on this week’s story about Peter raising Dorcas back to life, I am struck by how simple her works of service were.  The text simply says that she did kind things for others and helped the poor.  To be more specific, we know that she made coats and other clothes for a room full of widows.  Yet her legacy was so strong that the believers sent for Peter to bring about a miracle, and God showed up in a powerful way by allowing her to be raised from death itself.  This was no eloquent preacher or even the head of large household who God chose to raise.  It was a kind and faithful, ordinary believer who used her gifts to help others.

Clearly, the key ingredient that made Dorcas’s legacy so special was love, Christlike, servant love, love that reached out to “the least of these.”  First Corinthians 13:3 says, “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

In order to build on God’s foundation with good works that will last, we must imitate Christ’s love for others.  God’s foundation is Jesus, so everything we build on that must have the same character of Jesus, who, in every moment of his life, perfectly incarnated the everlasting love of God.  That’s a lot to live up to, and yet, Dorcas did it, so simply and sincerely that everyone she served knew they were loved by her.  Thank God for such a simple example for simple folk like us.

Although loving others is not always easy, in my mind, it’s easier than trying to live up to our society’s expectations of power, popularity, prestige, and perfection.  I am comforted that God doesn’t ask me to be perfect at everything in order to influence others.  He has no requirements other than love in Jesus’ name.  When we love others as Jesus has loved us, we are fulfilling God’s requirement for works that will survive (and even shine more purely) after judgment day.

Perhaps you already think frequently about how you can better love others.  But this week, I encourage you to think beyond that to the ways in which God might influence others through your love.  Allow yourself to dream big dreams about the chain effects of your Christlike love.  The point is not to glorify yourself in these dreams, but to open your mind to the possibilities of love’s power.  After Dorcas was raised, it says that the news spread through the whole town and many believed in the Lord (v. 42).  In the same way, God can use you and me as a catalyst for change, most importantly, the change that takes place in a person’s heart when they acknowledge Christ as Lord.  What might that kind of influence look like through your life?  How might God multiply your simple acts of service?  When you find something that ignites your passion and allows you to fully demonstrate your love for others, then you have found the avenue for your influence.  May it be so for all of us.

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