Our grandfather had been the night supervisor at an influential petrochemical plant decades earlier. He had also helped open refinery operations in Europe after World War II. Several times in my brother's professional career, his company assigned him to do site remediation (clean up) at the very same facilities in which our grandfather had once worked and supervised. In other words, his job was to clean up his grandfather's messes.
As we thought about the irony and the appropriateness of the whole situation, a deeper spiritual reality dawned on us. My brothers and I are the recipients of multi-generational faith. The dynamic faith exhibited by the men and women who preceded us — including our Grandfather, Gordon, who was a Shepherd of God's people — gave us a great headstart and environment to learn to live as disciples of Jesus.
We also were blessed to be involved in very active youth groups in which our parents were highly engaged. In other words, we have a vibrant faith because our parents lived a passionate faith before us. They made sure the churches we attended had youth groups that challenged us to live our faith with passion. They didn't just take us to church; they taught us to be Jesus' disciples and live the values of his Kingdom in our daily lives.
All of us, as flawed human parents, will pass on some of our messes to our children and grandchildren. As parents, we know this reality is inescapable. In a way, they will spend part of their lives cleaning up their father's (and yes, their mother's) messes. It's not a debatable issue; it is just the reality that we all live with as parents and grandparents. This reality is one of the reasons that the characteristics in our children that bother us most are the weaknesses they picked up from us.
As much as this messy legacy principle sometimes saddens, it also holds the power of a greater blessing. Rather than beating ourselves up for past mistakes, we can choose to imprint our children with faith and a better perspective on life. We can leave a legacy of godliness and manliness, of faith and boldness, and of hope and blessing.
Not only do we have the opportunity to limit the number and severity of our messes, but we also have the power to leave our children and grandchildren a legacy of faith. We can demonstrate our passion for the Kingdom of God and our love for the Savior. In a fallen world, a legacy of faith is much harder to pass on than the messes of life. That's why Joshua directly challenged Israel to leave a legacy for their children when he said, "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15 ESV).
A Kingdom legacy must be shared intentionally through prayer, sacrifice, teaching, example, opportunity, challenge, discipleship, love, and witness on our part. The glory is that God can take such a legacy and imprint His character on three or four generations of children.
God has built into our fatherly role an incredible dynamic multi-generational power: The influence of a father on one godly generation can be multiplied countless times through the course of many generations. Remember what God said when he chose Abraham to the father of faith for many generations:
Then the LORD said, "...Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him" (Genesis 18:18-19).
This principle of a father's multi-generational impact is why I continuously challenge older church members that we must quit trying to find churches that make them happy. We must quit insisting that churches do church the way we like church. We must invest in churches that choose to be a place where our grandchildren will be able to pass on their faith to their friends and family!
You then, my son [Timothy],[Gen 2] be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me [Paul][Gen 1] say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people[Gen 3] who will also be qualified to teach others[Gen 4] (2 Timothy 2:1-2 NRSV).
As we approach Father's Day in the U.S., and as many of us as Christian men struggle to find our role in a changing world, let's refuse to give in to despair. Instead, let's pass on the greatest gift of all: a legacy of vibrant faith to our children and grandchildren. We know that our children will spend some of their time cleaning up a few of our messes — that just goes with being flawed and human. We can, however, focus on the value of our influence. We can intentionally pass on a legacy of vibrant, rugged, manly, life-proven faith, hope, love, because of our faith in Jesus. Let's be men who leave behind a legacy of strong faith!