Deuteronomy 6:1-9 is the classic Old Testament passage that talks about fathers teaching, modeling, demonstrating the Word to their children. The passage that revolves around loving the Lord our God supremely, and sharing that with our children.
A legacy defined
A legacy can be defined as material or immaterial things that are left as our testament or are transmitted from fathers to children, and from generation to generation.
On this Father’s Day, we do well to talk a little about the importance of being a father who leaves a good legacy. We will all leave a legacy; the important thing is that it be a good one, one that glorifies God and blesses our family.
All of us who are believers are children of “the best Father of them all”.1 We will each fulfill several roles throughout our lifetime.
- As a man: A follower of Jesus and a servant. “Submit yourselves one to another.” Men don’t have to be bossy and demanding, but we are to lead by following Jesus.
- Husband: A protector, a provider, and an example of purity. The success and well-being of the family require the cooperation of every member, but the heaviest responsibility falls on the husband.
- Father: Ephesians 6:1-3 teaches that fathers are to raise their children in the “nurture and discipline of the Lord”. Colossians 3:21 tells us”do not exasperate your children”. I loved my father, but he was impatient, critical, and not a communicator. Many men of that generation were like that; they could not articulate their feelings. Consequently, my dad didn’t teach me to do a lot of things, and I grew up not knowing how.
- Mentor: Paul and Timothy (see Titus 2). Fathers should be mentors to their sons. The fact is, older men should be mentors to younger men, as we see with Paul and Timothy, Paul and Titus, etc.
- Patriarch: The father who over time becomes a leader. He sets the pace, establishes goals, and gives direction to the future of a family or a clan becomes a patriarch. What a legacy!
Two examples of legacy.
“The Greatest Generation”
D-Day, June 6, 1944. 160,000 soldiers, many of them boys 18, 19, and 20, arriving in amphibious boats on the coast of Normandy, France. The Nazi forces were entrenched on the hillsides and opened fire as the landing unfolded. Hundreds and hundreds died in the first effort. If you have seen the war movie “Saving Private Ryan,” you witnessed the carnage. It is not easy to watch, and that’s putting it mildly. Today over the green hillsides of Normandy there are thousands of white markers where they died. A legacy of sacrifice, a legacy of freedom.
My father and my father-in-law, and all their generation, left that legacy. The majority have now died. (Judy’s uncle died two years ago at the age of 93.) Many survived their war experiences but were permanently affected by what they lived through. Emotionally, physically crippled, PTSD. I saw that in many who came back home after the war before I was born, and were there as I grew up.
Buenos Aires, Panama
Templo Manantial de Vida, a church in Panama City, Panama, asked me to share a message for their Father’s Day service. This is the “legacy,” in a sense, of a family clan of people (primarily six brothers and sisters) from the province of Las Tablas who migrated several hours to the North and East to the area of Cañita de Chepo in the 1960s. As folks who worked the land, slashing and burning in order to have a place to sow rice and corn, and who raised cattle, as generations before them had done, a number of families made this move. The surnames Vargas, Gonzalez, and Deleon were prominent.
In the October 1977 edition of Contacto (Spanish version of Contact) magazine, Tom Willey reported the baptism of 31 people in the Buenos Aires community in one day. At almost the exact same time, 9 other people from the same community who now lived in Panama City, were baptized. A people movement had occurred, a huge number of people converted to Christ.
One of the Vargas brothers, Alberto, who was known as “Tío Peto”, responded publicly to a decision made by the government to relocate these 10 or so families. He gave this testimony in a worship service up in Buenos Aires several years after this had happened. This was due to the construction of the large Bayano Dam, where the waters had been re-routed into a man-made lake to create hydroelectric power. So the government made all these families move abruptly to another location. He said, though at first he, like the others, was upset at being moved, now “it doesn’t matter to me whether they move me from here to there, I know I have a home in the Kingdom of Heaven forever!”
Families forever changed
As the years went by, and these folks grew in their faith, generational sins, cultural habits, and sinful lifestyles were radically changed by the power of the cross. Some of the more prevailing sins in Latin America, such as absentee fathers, alcohol abuse while the family suffers need, marital unfaithfulness, the whole “machismo” thing that allows men to do what they please while viewing religion as something for the women and children, would likely have been present in some of these folks. But the gospel came, touched hearts, transformed lives, and was extended to subsequent generations.
The Templo Manantial de Vida in San Miguelito is the spiritual descendant of the Buenos Aires folks. Wanting their children who studied at the university or went to work in the city to go on with the Lord, they provided a meeting place. This led to a new church plant.
At least three full-time pastors are sons of those first pioneers. One woman is a pastor’s wife. Several are deacons or deacon’s wives. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue to serve the Lord as they raise their families.
Alberto, the man I mentioned earlier, and one of the Vargas brothers, was the first Panamanian I knew who sang the Panamanian folkloric “Decima” music with Christian lyrics. He inspired his nephew Uri (a pastor) to continue that tradition. The legacy, in scores of lives and in hundreds of ways has been a beautiful thing to behold.
These men, in many cases, became spiritual leaders in their homes and communities. The gospel came, touched hearts, transformed lives, and was extended to subsequent generations! From Buenos Aires to San Miguelito and continues to this day.
Fathers, may we leave a holy legacy to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren! Let’s be men of God, followers, and servants. Let’s be faithful, loving husbands, protecting, providing, and modeling purity. May we commit to be fathers who raise our children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord”. Let’s be mentors to younger men in our own families, and to others as well. And may some of us live long enough and well enough to become a patriarch, even influencing generations.
- “I Wanna Be Just Like Him,” Phillips, Craig, and Dean ↩