I’m not being morbid. I’m honestly curious.
Up until a few months ago, I didn’t give it much thought either.
One of my heroes crossed the finish line into Heaven.
Okay, so that you know, I have not become preoccupied with death.
I’ve become obsessed with legacy. With HOW I’m living my life. With what message I am leaving behind for others carry on; with being intentional about sharing Christ’s message with those God places in my life.
All during Tom’s visitation and homecoming service, I looked around at the incredible number of people impacted by his purposeful life. I listened to stories of how he loved others well. How he helped, blessed, encouraged, and mentored countless people with his positive attitude, passion for Jesus, and compulsion to share the Gospel.
After I said goodbye to this incredible man, God and I started talking about my call and purpose and how I’m living my life to fulfill them. We discussed what I am doing well and what needs improvement. What demands change and elimination.
I feel the significance of His imperative to carry on Tom’s legacy in the areas He’s called me to serve—writing, mentoring, teaching, and (*gulp) speaking.
I feel the weight of Tom’s baton in my hand, and I hear God whisper to my heart—RUN!
What I do and don’t do reflects on Him and His Kingdom because I am His as is my purpose! And it’s essential that I fulfill my purpose with excellence because it affects the passing of the baton to the next person. My movements, choices, and commitment set the next runner up for success or failure. They will either start their race with my momentum or be hindered and behind by having to create their own. What is a tremendous responsibility!
So now, as I embark on this mission with renewed fervor, people’s epithets in Scripture stop me in my tracks.
I want to know what God says about those who fill the pages of His Word. I want to witness their life, faith, and legacy. I’m determined to learn from their choices—good and bad. I’m resolved to put into practice what I learn.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. (Matthew 1:18-19, NLT, emphasis mine)
Try as we might, there isn’t much of his story recorded for us. But we do know God wanted the original readers of this text and every generation after to know him as a good man (1:19). Beyond that, He provided enough details to allow the impact of his life to settle on us and challenge us to emulate his actions.
A little background: Engagement in first-century Jewish culture was nothing like engagement now. It was as ceremonious and legally-binding as marriage but without sex. Both parties (bride, groom, and their families) entered into a contract which stated all the terms and conditions of the union including the bride-price and other family obligations. Therefore, breaking an engagement was much more complicated than giving back The Ring or sending a text.
It involved legal proceedings. It required a divorce.
In Joe and Mary’s case, Joe had every legal right to divorce Mary. She was pregnant after all, and he was not the baby-daddy.
Put yourself in his shoes. Your beloved is pregnant, and her story was… outlandish, far-fetched, unbelievable…it couldn’t be anything by a lie. It reminded you of the line in that Irish song, “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.” But this lie is salt in your shattered heart. The betrayal is almost too much to bear. You feel like a fool. Her fool.
The anger, the red-hot, searing anger! You’re tempted to grab the little wench by her hair, drag her to the center of town, accuse her of her infidelity, and expose her state of pregnancy. This is your right as a man! She will feel what your feeling and more. Then you can take out your anger, hurt, embarrassment, revenge on her by leading the charge to stone her to death outside the city limits.
The thing is…you still love her. Despite your shattered heart, you love her. Tears coak your face, and you know in your heart there is no way you could do that to her. You love her, so you decide to divorce her quietly—no one else needs to know. And then you’ll bury your broken heart, praying the Lord will heal it and help you find another mate…if you can ever get over this one. Oh, Mary, Mary, Mary…
We know the rest of the story, don’t we? The angel. The dream. The marriage. The trip to Bethlehem.
He was righteous and just (AMP); honorable (HCSB) and noble (MSG). He was faithful to the law (NIV) and always did what was right (GNT).
That’s quite an epitaph, isn’t it? For a man we know so little about, God wanted, no, He needed us to know Joe was a GOOD MAN (NLT).
That blows my mind! What would He say about me? How would He describe me when He tells my story? Would I be a good woman? And what does He mean by a ‘good’ anyway? By what standard was Joe determined to be ‘good?’
Joe’s epitaph made my heart sink a little. ‘Good’ I could handle and maybe even ‘righteous’—okay maybe not, but I do try. But ‘faithful to the law’ and ‘always did what was right’ wrecked me. I know I’m not always faithful to what Jesus has called me to do. And there is no way I can claim always doing what is right, particularly when it involved taming my tongue or using my filter.
I brought my brokenness before God. My sin. My misgivings. As I laid myself bare before Him, my ugliness exposed to His purifying Light, the Spirit urged me to look into the original meaning of the word.
Díkaioi is greek for right, just. Righteous, just…that which is right, conformable to right, pertaining to right, that which is just…In the NT those that are called righteous are those who have conditioned their lives by the standard which is not theirs, but God’s (Rom 2:13; 5:7: 1 Tim 1:9). They are the people related to God and who, as a result of this relationship, walk with God…A righteous person is one justified by faith and showing forth his faith by works. (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, pg 457)
What do you get from this definition?
To be a good person requires a determination to conditioned our lives to God’s standard NOT ours, our culture’s, or our generations. From this foundation, we walk with Him and follow Jesus. Then and only then can we show our faith to others by how we love and treat them—yes, including those we don’t get along with or like.
So I ask you again, Have you given any thought to what your epitaph would be?
Joseph was a good, just, righteous man. He was related to God not just because he was Jewish but because he believed Jesus was the Messiah. And as a result of this relationship, he walked with God. Joe was honorable and always did what was right because he conditioned his life by God’s standards not those of his culture, society, or generation.
I want that! Don’t you? I want to be a good woman. Not by anyone else’s standards, but God’s. Because when we live by God’s standards, we automatically treat others well and with respect. We naturally lead with love and acceptance. And sharing the Message of the Cross is as natural as breathing.
I want my Father to look at me, with a twinkle in His eye and a smile on His lips saying, “See her? That woman over there. The one running for all she’s worth. The one clutching the baton tightly in her fist as she rounds the corner. Yeah, her. She IS a GOOD WOMAN. And she is Mine.”