April 23, 2017 • Life for Leaders
“A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”
On Easter Sunday, the world witnessed a tragedy unfolding on social media, as Robert Goodwin was gunned down in a senseless act of violence. I can recall watching the video, as Steven Stephens killed Mr. Goodwin, a complete stranger, coolly walked back to his car and just drove off. I was staring at my phone in disbelief, desperately seeking to make sense of what I had just seen. How could this have happened? Surely Robert Goodwin never imagined that he would be randomly selected by a complete stranger to die such a horrendous death. He couldn’t have known that his casual walk on that Easter Sunday afternoon would be his last day on earth. These troubling questions stayed with me in the hours that followed.
By Monday, the national news outlets had reached out to Robert Goodwin’s family to conduct interviews. This was their father, grandfather, and even great-grandfather who had been murdered. What would they say? How could they make sense of such an atrocious act? To be honest, I expected to see a distraught and inconsolable group of people, barely able to participate in the interview. I felt that maybe it was too soon for them to speak out regarding the events that had unfolded in their lives just the day before. However, by time the interviews were finished, the world saw a family that had been prepared to deal with the unexpected. Mr. Goodwin’s kids expressed sorrow and hurt at the loss of their father, which is natural. But then they genuinely declared their forgiveness for Steven Stephens, and their hope that he would come to know the love of God. Mind you, they did without batting an eye, cringing, or hesitating. They were expressing forgiveness for a man who had murdered their father and was still on the run. When asked how they could feel this way, they attributed it to the lessons that Robert Goodwin had instilled in them. He had spent years teaching them how to love the Lord, how to serve the Lord, and how to walk in forgiveness with humanity. In this one moment of tragedy, this family witnessed to us the life testimony of Robert Goodwin. They showed us the power of a legacy.
The interviews left me inspired and introspective. I was inspired because God was glorified in this situation. This did not mean that Robert Goodwin’s murder felt any better, or could be rationalized. But the family’s response showed the world the power of our God. I found myself introspectively assessing my path as leader. Was I building a legacy in the next generation? Was I instilling in them the lessons of God and Christ’s cross in a way that would help them maturely deal with the unexpected, even with terrible tragedy?
Proverbs 13 states that a good person leaves an inheritance to his children’s children. While this literally focuses on family in the biological sense, I believe that we can also extrapolate general lessons for leadership. As leaders, we should be storing up a legacy for those two generations after us. Our business models, training sessions, and staff should reflect legacy building two generations into the future. Robert Goodwin left his family with an actual legacy that money couldn’t buy, but that prepared them to attain true success in this life. I encourage you to reflect on your spaces of leadership, to assess how you are building a legacy for future generations to succeed. There is power in legacy building.
God, thank you for the legacy of Christ that we benefit from daily. Help us to be wise stewards as we build legacies for your Kingdom. Show us how to build legacies that last, and how to empower those that follow us. We thank you for the grace to lead and to build testimonies of your glory. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.