How Some Are Remembered
ABOUT three thousand years ago, David was fleeing from King Saul of Israel. David sent to Nabal, a wealthy herder of sheep and goats, asking for food and water. Actually, Nabal owed David and his followers a favor because of the protection they had given to Nabal’s flocks. However, Nabal refused to offer any hospitality. He even screamed rebukes at David’s men. Nabal was playing with fire, for David was not one to be trifled with.—1 Samuel 25:5, 8, 10, 11, 14.
Nabal’s attitude was out of harmony with the Middle Eastern tradition of showing hospitality to visitors and strangers. So, what kind of name did Nabal make for himself? The Bible record says that he “was harsh and bad in his practices” and “a good-for-nothing fellow.” His name means “senseless,” and he certainly lived up to it. (1 Samuel 25:3, 17, 25) Would you want to be remembered that way? Are you harsh and unrelenting when dealing with others, especially if it appears that they are at a disadvantage? Or are you kind, hospitable, and considerate?
Abigail—A Prudent Woman
As a result of his harsh attitude, Nabal was in trouble. David and 400 of his men girded on their swords and set out to teach Nabal a lesson. Abigail, Nabal’s wife, got to hear what had happened. She knew that a showdown was imminent. What could she do? She rushed to prepare ample food and provisions and went out to intercept David and his men. When she met them, she implored David not to shed blood without cause. David’s heart softened. He listened to her pleas and relented. Shortly after these events, Nabal died. David, recognizing Abigail’s good qualities, then took her as his wife.—1 Samuel 25:14-42.
What kind of reputation did Abigail establish for herself? She was “good in discretion,” or “intelligent,” as the original Hebrew expresses it. She was obviously sensible and practical and knew how and when to take the initiative. She acted loyally to protect her foolish husband and his household from disaster. Eventually she died, but with an outstanding reputation as a prudent woman.—1 Samuel 25:3; New International Version.
What Record Did Peter Leave Behind?
Let us move forward in time to the first century C.E. and consider Jesus’ 12 apostles. Without a doubt one of the most expressive and impulsive was Peter, or Cephas, formerly a fisherman in Galilee. He was evidently a dynamic person who was not afraid to express his feelings. For example, there was the occasion when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. How did Peter react when it was his turn to have his feet washed?
Peter said to Jesus: “Lord, are you washing my feet?” In answer Jesus said: “What I am doing you do not understand at present, but you will understand after these things.” Peter replied: “You will certainly never wash my feet.” Notice Peter’s emphatic but impulsive reaction. How did Jesus respond?
“Unless I wash you,” Jesus answered, “you have no part with me.” Simon Peter said to him: “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Now Peter goes to the other extreme! But you always knew where you stood with Peter. There was no guile or duplicity.—John 13:6-9.
Peter is also remembered for his very human weaknesses. For example, he denied Christ three times in front of people who accused him of being a follower of the condemned Jesus of Nazareth. When Peter realized his mistake, he wept bitterly. He was not afraid to express his sorrow and regret. It is also significant that this account of Peter’s denial was recorded by the Gospel writers—in all probability thanks to information that Peter himself supplied! He was humble enough to admit his failings. Do you have that virtue?—Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27.
Within a few weeks of his denying Christ, Peter, imbued with holy spirit, boldly preached to a multitude of Jews at Pentecost. This was a sure sign that the resurrected Jesus had confidence in him.—Acts 2:14-21.
On another occasion, Peter fell into a different trap. The apostle Paul explained that prior to the arrival of certain Jewish brothers in Antioch, Peter had freely mixed with Gentile believers. However, he separated himself from these “in fear of those of the circumcised class” who had just arrived from Jerusalem. Paul exposed Peter’s double standard.—Galatians 2:11-14.
Still, who of the disciples spoke up at a critical moment when it seemed that many of Jesus’ followers were ready to desert him? The occasion was when Jesus revealed something new, regarding the significance of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. He said: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.” The majority of Jesus’ Jewish followers were stumbled and said: “This speech is shocking; who can listen to it?” What happened then? “Owing to this many of his disciples went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him.”—John 6:50-66.
At this crucial moment, Jesus turned to the 12 apostles and asked the poignant question: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Peter responded: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”—John 6:67-69.
What kind of reputation did Peter establish? One who reads the accounts about him cannot help but be impressed by his honest and open personality, by his loyalty, and by his willingness to acknowledge his own weaknesses. What a fine name he made for himself!
What Did People Remember About Jesus?
Jesus’ earthly ministry lasted a mere three and a half years. Yet, how is he remembered by his followers? Because he was perfect, without sin, was he aloof and distant? Did he throw his weight around because he knew that he was the Son of God? Did he intimidate and coerce his followers into obedience? Did he take himself so seriously that he lacked a sense of humor? Was he so busy that he had no time for the weak and the sick or for children? Did he look down on people of other races and on women, as males often did back then? What does the record tell us?
Jesus was interested in people. A study of his ministry reveals that on many occasions he healed the lame and the sick. He put himself out to help the needy. He showed interest in young ones, instructing his disciples: “Let the young children come to me; do not try to stop them.” Then Jesus “took the children into his arms and began blessing them, laying his hands upon them.” Do you make time for children, or are you too busy even to notice their presence?—Mark 10:13-16; Matthew 19:13-15.
When Jesus was on earth, the Jewish people were weighed down with religious rules and regulations that went beyond the requirements of the Law. Their religious leaders were burdening people with heavy loads, while they themselves were not budging the loads with one of their fingers. (Matthew 23:4; Luke 11:46) What a contrast, therefore, was Jesus! He said: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you.”—Matthew 11:28-30.
People were refreshed when they associated with Jesus. He did not intimidate his disciples, so that they were afraid to express themselves. In fact, he asked questions to draw them out. (Mark 8:27-29) Christian overseers do well to ask themselves: ‘Do I make the same impression on fellow believers? Do other elders really tell me what they believe, or do they hesitate to do so?’ How refreshing it is when overseers are approachable, listen to others, and remain flexible! Unreasonableness only discourages frank and free discussion.
Even though Jesus was the Son of God, he never misused his power or authority. Rather, he reasoned with his listeners. Such was the case when the Pharisees tried to trap him with the trick question: “Is it lawful to pay head tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus told them to show him a coin and asked them: “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied: “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matthew 22:15-21) Simple logic was enough.
Did Jesus have a sense of humor? Some readers may sense a touch of humor when they come across the passage where Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:23, 24) The very idea of a camel attempting to pass through the eye of a literal sewing needle is exaggerated. Another example of such hyperbole is that of seeing the straw in a brother’s eye but not observing the rafter in one’s own eye. (Luke 6:41, 42) No, Jesus was not a tight-lipped martinet. He was warm and friendly. For Christians today, a sense of humor can lighten the gloom in times of stress.
Jesus’ Compassion for Women
How did women feel in Jesus’ presence? Certainly he had many loyal female followers, including his own mother, Mary. (Luke 8:1-3; 23:55, 56; 24:9, 10) Women felt free to approach Jesus to such a degree that on one occasion a woman ‘known to be a sinner’ washed his feet with her tears and greased them with perfumed oil. (Luke 7:37, 38) Another woman, who had suffered with a flow of blood for years, pushed forward to touch his garment in order to be healed. Jesus praised her faith. (Matthew 9:20-22) Yes, women found Jesus approachable.
On another occasion, Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at a well. She was so surprised that she said: “How is it that you, despite being a Jew, ask me for a drink, when I am a Samaritan woman?” You see, Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus went on to teach her a marvelous truth about the ‘water that bubbles up to impart everlasting life.’ He was at ease with women. He did not feel challenged.—John 4:7-15.
Jesus is remembered for his many humane qualities, including his self-sacrificing spirit. He was the epitome of godly love. Jesus sets the standard for all who want to be his followers. How closely do you follow his example?—1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 Peter 2:21.
How Are Modern-Day Christians Remembered?
In modern times, thousands of faithful Christians have died, many in old age, others relatively young. But they have left behind a good reputation. Some, like Crystal, who died in old age, are remembered for their warm heart and gregarious nature. Others, like Dirk, who died in his 40’s, are remembered for a happy disposition and a willing spirit.
Then there is the case of José from Spain. Back in the 1960’s, when the preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was under ban in that country, José was married and had three young daughters. He had a steady job in Barcelona. But at that time, there was a need for mature Christian elders in southern Spain. José left his secure employment and moved to Málaga with his family. They had to survive difficult economic times, often being without employment.
Yet, José was known for his faithful, reliable example in the ministry and for the exemplary upbringing of his daughters, which he accomplished with the help of his supportive wife, Carmela. When someone was needed to organize Christian conventions in the region, José always made himself available. Unfortunately, while in his 50’s, he was stricken with a serious illness that caused his death. However, he left behind a reputation of being a reliable, hardworking elder and loving husband and father.
So how will you be remembered? If you had died yesterday, what would people be saying about you today? This is a question that might motivate all of us to improve on how we act.
What can we do to establish a good reputation? We can always improve in displaying the fruitage of the spirit—love, long-suffering, kindness, mildness, and self-control among others. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Yes, to be sure, “a [good] name is better than good oil, and the day of death than the day of one’s being born.”—Ecclesiastes 7:1; Matthew 7:12.
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Abigail is remembered for her discretion
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Peter is remembered for his impulsive yet honest personality
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Jesus took time for children