“Owe nothing to anyone – except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” (Romans 13:8 NLT)
As followers of the Lord Jesus, when we die it’s expected that we should leave an emptiness in the hearts and lives of those whom we love and who love us. But what about our neighbors and friends? “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a commandment which, according to Jesus, is equally important to loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. What’s my point?
Loving God, for all intent and purpose, is valueless unless and until our love for Him translates into love for others. Years ago I heard someone ask a question that haunted me as a pastor, and haunts me today as it relates to those in my spheres of influence. They asked: “If your church was to close it’s doors, would anyone in the neighborhood of your church miss it?”
If the church I attend now would close it would be devastating to not only the surrounding neighborhoods, but to Las Vegas, the West, and on many levels, the world. But I’m not so sure about some of the churches I pastored and which I have attended.
It causes me to think about my life and the people whose lives I am touching. There are at least two aspects of this issue of leaving a “hole.” First, as it relates to your family and loved ones, don’t leave a hole of doubt as to whether you loved them. Say it every day, often. But do more than say it – live it! Be available, not just physically present, but emotionally attentive. As my precious wife will sometimes say: “Listen to me with your whole face!”
Related to that, be fiscally responsible. Don’t leave your family with a mountain of debt, but not the means to pay it. If you can’t afford to buy something and have enough investments and/or life insurance to cover your debt in the event of your death, you probably shouldn’t buy whatever it is.
But secondly, loving your family is a given, but your neighbors and friends are another story. I want my neighbors to miss me when I move away, whether to another location on earth or to heaven. And please hear my heart. I don’t expect to endear myself to every neighbor as I do to my family, but I do want them to miss the fact that I pray for them every day; that they have someone to turn to in a crisis; that I’ve been helpful to them in practical ways; but most importantly, I want my absence to bring to their mind the presence of the One I loved and about whom I talked with them and sought to reflect His image.
A lot of folks are concerned about their legacy, in terms of what they’re going to leave their family and others. But to me, money or material things pale in comparison to the fact that people know you loved and cared for them. You can leave a legacy, but not a “hole,” at least not in the way I’m thinking about it.
You’ve likely heard the expression: “When they left (either by death or separation) it was like my heart was torn out.” That’s the way I felt when my first wife left. There was definitely a “hole” in my heart and life without her. But it was a hole of regret for all I could have done and been but wasn’t.
The “hole” I want to leave is a vacuum only Jesus can fill. On a much smaller scale, it’s similar to when Jesus was preparing to leave and He comforted His disciples with the assurance that His place with them would be filled by His Holy Spirit.
I’m not suggesting that I’m Jesus, but I would love it if when I die, the Holy Spirit would comfort, encourage, empower, and enable my loved ones and friends to recognize that the “hole” that my absence leaves is being filled by God’s Spirit. And as they remember me, His presence with them reminds them of how dependent they need to be on the Holy Spirit. And how full of joy, peace, kindness, and love they are, reflected in their love for others because of the example I lived before them.
I’m not there yet, but I believe that’s what my sister’s homegoing brings to my mind, and, by God’s grace, I’m hopeful I make a lot more headway in that direction before He calls me home.
Blessings, Ed 😊