I do not want to jinx myself, but I am currently enjoying one of the best experiences of being a parent. My son enjoys one of the same things that I enjoy, and we get to share that together. Specifically, he is really, really into Star Wars right now. Like his father before him, he wants to be a Jedi knight. For the past couple of months we have watched the movies together, played Star Wars video games, played with Star Wars toys, and had numerous lightsaber duels. I have loved every minute of it. I realize it may not last. In a couple of years something else will be his newest obsession, but I hope that does not happen. I really love the idea that no matter what happens over the years from now, we might always have this one passion that binds us together. Thinking about this also made me realize that Star Wars has the potential to truly become one of those pop-cultural landmarks that goes beyond generations. Star Wars is well on its way to becoming something that outlives and takes on a greater life than its creators ever thought possible. I believe that Star Wars will have a lasting legacy. Like Batman, Mickey Mouse, Sherlock Holmes, Huckleberry Finn, and Shakespeare plays Star Wars is going to become one of those cultural milestones that nearly everyone has some sort of knowledge and appreciation of. It is curious why some creations take root in our collective consciousness and others go away. For example, Disney’s first major character was not Mickey Mouse it was Oswald the Rabbit. However, only the most hardcore Disney fans know who Oswald is. In the same way, one of the influences that led to the creation of Batman was the Phantom Detective. The Phantom Detective had his own magazine that was published continuously for twenty years from 1933 to 1953. In his heyday, the Phantom Detective clearly had a lot of popularity, but for whatever reason he never gained the same public appeal of Batman. Oswald the Rabbit, The Phantom Detective, and the hundreds of other creations that have been forgotten about never managed to achieve a legacy. Their impact did not last and their cultural footprint faded. Some elements of pop culture establish a lasting legacy because there is something about it that connects deeply with people.
There is a somewhat obscure story in the book of Acts about Tabitha. You can find it in Acts 9:36-42. She died and the upset followers of Jesus learn that Peter is nearby. The summon Peter to heal her. Tabitha is raised from the dead but then never mentioned again. Despite being a minor biblical character, she can teach us a lot about leaving a legacy.
Verse 36 tells us that she was always doing good and helping the poor. While it is not explicitly stated, we get an idea of the kind of good work that she did. Verse 39 tells us that all of the widows were mourning her death, and they showed Peter the clothing that she had made. In first century society, widows were some of the most destitute and impoverished people in society. If their husband died, then the widow had to rely on their son, but if the widow did not have a son or the son did not fulfill his obligations, then the widow was in very dire straits. Tabitha cared for and provided for the widows. Part of her work was clearly making clothes for them. Yet that must have only been part of it, because the bible does not state that she “did a lot of carrying for the widows.” It states she was “always doing good works and helping the poor.” The work she did for others and the care she showed the poor was what defined for. It is what she was known for, and we get the impression that is what she was loved for.
The bible records that Tabitha was a believer in Jesus, and it was this faith that motivated her to do good and help the poor. Her faith motivated her to actions, which defined her and made a real and lasting impact on those around her. Can we say that? Are we as individual believers defined in our community by the good we do and the way we help others? In other words, can we truly say that people know we are Christians by our love? I believe that Tabitha could say that and that is why she is a disciple that is worth emulating.
Tabitha did not turn in a time sheet to be included in the bible, but we can easily imagine that she put in hundreds and hundreds of hours in her caring for the poor. Tabitha found a specific need that she had the skills and passion to meet. She provided clothes for the poor widows. We live in a fallen world where there is no shortage of needs, so here is a challenge for you. When you go home this afternoon make a list of the needs that you are most passionate about or that you feel the most able to meet. Pick one: see that need and meet that need. It is that simple. Just do it. Or better yet, bring it back to your church family so that we can join you and we can all work together at it.
Identifying and meeting specific needs in our community, country, or world is a good way that we can follow the example of Tabitha and give our faith to have a lasting legacy. However, it is not the only way and it is not the simplest way. There is no reason to overthink this. The easiest way that we can let people know we are Christians by our love, the easiest way that our faith can make a real and lasting difference is just to be kind. Nashville based pastor Todd Stevens does a great job at defining kindness. In his book How to Pick up a Stripper (and other acts of Kindness), he wrote, “when I take action to help someone deal with a struggle or hurt, I am meeting a need. Kindness is different because it helps someone who may not be dealing with any sort of crisis. Kindness is simply doing something that benefits someone else.” Kindness is showing the love of God to another person without an agenda. A life that is defined by kindness is synonymous with a life defined by God’s love.
Imagine what would happen, if each and every one of us intentionally made it our daily mission just to perform three different acts of kindness for others. Imagine the kind of ripple effect that would have. Also imagine, how doing that would impact you. It would change how you look at the world. Instead of being focused on yourself, you would become more focused on how you can help others. In short, like Tabitha the good you do and the way you help others would define who you are. People will know that you are a Christian by how you love them. You would be establishing a legacy of kindness. You will be doing something that connects with people in the depths of their being. Like the pop culture icons, and like Tabitha you will be leaving a lasting legacy.