16th February 2012

Fifty Years After You Die

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Proverbs 22:6 (TNIV)

Fifty years after you die, no one will remember you, but the world may be a better place because you touched the life of a child.

There is a saying that you can judge how civilized a country is by the way it treats its young and old. Today the focus is on the young. The mind and heart of a child are like a blank canvas on which parents, teachers and society paint the values which the child will carry through his or her life.

Parents generally have the greatest impact. A child is trained as much by what a parent does, maybe even more, than by what a parent says. Normally a child will outlive their parents and carry their values forward in society as well as passing them down to their children. So the role of a parent is vital in relation to the physical, emotional and spiritual health of a child.

Teachers also have a major impact. Their skills and example can give a child a love of learning, an enthusiasm for a particular subject, an understanding of their potential as a person. Most of us can remember a teacher whose passion and enthusiasm brought a subject to life, whether it was Maths, English, History, Geography or some other subject. We also learned the value of effort, having to work to make progress and to relate to others in a kind and balanced way.

Society too passes its values to children, whether they are positive or negative. Most people would say that a lot of society’s values have gone downhill over the last 50 years. The simple question of what constitutes good manners or appropriate language being just two examples. Our world today is a reflection, to some extent, of what parents, teachers and society have taught over these last 50 years. So what are we teaching today and what will our world look like in 50 years time, what values will it have?

Parenting, teaching and society all go through changes, some positive, some negative! So where do we look for values that stand the test of time and apply regardless of the fashions that can affect parenting, teaching and society? Even standing for, and applying, those values can seem a bit like swimming upstream.

The answer is Jesus Christ—fully God, fully human, and surely the greatest teacher the world has ever seen. The core and heart of the gospel message is that Christ gave his life, in love, to pay the penalty for all humanity’s sins. Christ taught that the greatest command was to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and the second is like it, love your neighbour as yourself.(Matthew 22.38–39) 

If parents, teachers and society focused on teaching children to love other people as they love themselves, then in 50 years time our children and grandchildren would have a much better world to live in.

As parents, teachers and society, what do we want to be remembered for? Will the world be a better place in the future because of what we are teaching now? Fifty years after our death will our example of living and upholding Christian values still be influencing our children and grandchildren?

Unless we are an exceptionally famous person in some area of life, 50 years after we die we will be forgotten. But maybe our values will be carried forward because of the example we set and the world be a slightly better place because of it.

Loving Father, help us to love you and love our neighbour, because we know it’s the right way to live, irrespective of what the society we live in teaches and does. Help us to leave a legacy of right values for our children and our children’s children.

Study by Keith Hartrick

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