Summary: If all of us were prepared to stand and say, "NO, I am foremost among sinners", there would be a lot less finger-pointing, wouldn’t there?
12 “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”
“What we leave behind is not as important as how we lived.”
Capt. James T. Kirk to Capt. Jean Luc Picard, on “Star Trek – Generations”
That declaration may be true to the degree that the phrase ‘what we leave behind’ refers only to material and tangible things. But Captain Kirk’s statement is ultimately incomplete in that how we lived is what we leave behind. How we lived will make an indelible mark on the lives of those who witnessed us, more surely than any structure we built, money we donated, books we wrote, words we said, discoveries we made.
One of you recently loaned me a stack of paperback books that all tell the accounts of crimes and criminals, because I mentioned that I enjoy reading those stories. I’m not a morbid person; I just like to read about how dedicated and clever people in law enforcement went about clearing those cases.
One of those books was about the life and death of atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair. In case you don’t know who she was, Madalyn was the woman who sued and won the case against classroom prayer and Bible reading in our nation’s schools in the 1960s.
That is the thing she is most remembered for, although she spent many years filing various law suits in our courts in an attempt to blot the name of God out of our country entirely.
Madalyn was founder and head of the American Atheists, an organization dedicated to fighting anything and everything Godly.
She was a guest on the Phil Donahue show numerous times along with other talk programs, and was often in the news over a period of several decades for her flamboyant and obtrusive and destructive behavior.
If you read her story though, you’ll find that in the final analysis Madalyn was a sad, bitter, mentally disturbed, tortured individual who hated everyone and led a miserable existence from her childhood to the day she was murdered.
I’ve heard of Madalyn all my life, and several times I saw her on television myself. So the thing that struck me the most about the revealed details of her life was that if not for her cleverness in winning that one major court case that has adversely affected our entire nation over the past four decades, she might have lived and died in ignorance and poverty in a hovel in some small New England town and very few people ever would have known her name.
Madalyn was a sadly pathetic human being; yet she goes down in history as the one who successfully shut God out of our schools and opened the way for them to become the institutions of Godlessness and hedonism they are today.
The profusion of books and movies purporting to accurately portray the lives of famous names in history have fooled most of us into thinking that they are the significant people, the worthwhile stories, to tell about.
For the most part though, almost any famous or historical person whose name most of us know, whose stories we have access to, accomplished things that no matter how noble, no matter how progressive and philanthropic, will fade with time or pass away with this world.
The actual and eternal truth is that the most significant lives of all are the ones that reflect Christ and accomplish His will and manifest His grace and mercy in this life; for that is what will survive the passing of the galaxies and on into eternity.
CHIEF OF SINNERS
Galatians 1:13, (NASB95)
13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;
The Apostle Paul might have gone down in history as one of the most ruthless persecutors of the church. Had he not responded in faith to the call of Christ, and had he continued his destructive path, he wouldn’t have stopped the growth of the church; he only would have come to a bad end himself and now we would be reading brief accounts of his life, as we do of people like Herod and Festus and Agrippa, and other than that we’d not know a great deal about him.