A Question of Legacy

Yesterday, as football fans began ramping up for championship Sunday in the NFL, another story dominated the sports world—the death of Joe Paterno. As a two-time national champion coach, a man revered by former players, and a person who, with his wife, donated millions of dollars to the library at Penn State, Paterno had coached into his 80s. But, as most sports fans know, what once would have been a brilliant legacy of character and competitiveness was stained this past fall with the news of a sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant coach that would ultimately cost Paterno his job—even though the legendary coach was never charged with any wrongdoing. In spite of years of success and honor, the debate that raged on sports talk TV and radio yesterday was about Paterno’s legacy: How would he be remembered? That question would have never been raised a year ago. Now, sadly, it seems to be the only question.

As I listened to the mixture of tributes and analysis, I wondered, how will I be remembered? It is a question that should concern each of us, for it speaks to the impact of our lives—either for good or for ill. In the midst of our lives, we are all a mixed bag of failure and success, of good moments and bad. How will we be remembered? The apostle Paul was also concerned about this very thing, expressing to the leaders of the Ephesian church:

Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:31-32 NKJV).

Paul wanted them to remember his faithfulness, his heart, and his tears. But, of infinitely greater importance, he wanted them to remember his God. In the end, our greatest legacy is not what people think of us after we are gone, but what they think of our God. A life committed to making God and His grace known is a legacy that can go forward untainted by any shortcomings or failings on our part, for He alone never fails.

Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain