What does it mean to leave a legacy? Maybe a better question is, when you think about people who left a legacy, who comes to mind? Someone of great importance, like George Washington or Winston Churchill, perhaps. Or maybe someone who captured our imagination, like Walt Disney. Perhaps someone who made the world a better place, like Mother Teresa. What all these people have in common, though, is that we remember their names.
For many of us, leaving a legacy means being remembered. But a legacy is much more than people knowing our name. Our legacy is made up of everything we leave behind us, the good and the bad. You can leave a world-changing legacy without anyone ever knowing your name. In fact, some of the most important people in the history of the world are effectively anonymous.
For example, do you recognize the names Norman Borlaug, or Gavrilo Princip? If not, that’s ok. I think maybe only one person in ten would recognize either name. But each of these men changed the course of history and shaped the world as we know it today. One day in June 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were gunned down. That incident sparked World War I, which killed nearly 20 million people. World War I led directly to World War II, and the deaths of over 60 million.
All that death and suffering goes back to one assassin’s gun. And that assassin’s name was Gavrilo Princip. One man, one moment, changed the world forever. Princip was arguably the most consequential person of the entire 20th century because of what he did, yet almost no one remembers his name.
On the other end of the spectrum is Norman Borlaug. Known as the Father of the Green Revolution, Borlaug’s work in agriculture led to dramatic increases in harvest yields in some of the most desperate places on earth. Today, Borlaug is considered to have saved over a billion lives. Around 15% of the people on the entire planet owe their lives to Borlaug, but how many remember him?
The truth is that we will ALL leave a legacy, regardless of whether anyone remembers our name. We probably won’t leave a legacy of suffering like Princip. Maybe some of us will save a life or two, but none of us will save a billion. Yet our legacies matter, precisely because we can’t know the full extent of the impact we have on the world around us. We should see every action, big or small, as having the power to change the lives of those around us.
One more name. This one, I guarantee you don’t know. His name was Aaron. The second time I attended Seacoast Church, almost 25 years ago, I was a kid in a new town who didn’t know anybody. But when I walked into church that Sunday, Aaron lit up. He remembered me from the week before, said that he was glad to see me. That’s all. But that moment made Seacoast feel like home and my life would never be the same.
What about you? What sort of legacy do you want to leave? How will you touch the lives around you? Will you leave the world a different place than you found it? There is often a gap between how we want to be remembered and how we will be remembered. During our Legacy series, we’re going to explore how we can close that gap and leave legacies that matter. When we center our legacy around the Gospel, we become a part of something eternal.