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A Legacy of Character

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) in the Philippines was in the center of the nation’s news the past couple of weeks. An exposé alerted the public to the BOC’s random inspection of balikbayan boxes without the proper representation of the recipients. (“Balikbayan boxes” are packages of personal effects and/or gift items sent by Filipinos residing or working abroad to their families or relatives in the Philippines.) The BOC explained that the random inspection of the boxes was for public safety, to thwart the illegal entry of items such as drugs and weapons. But the public would not accept the explanation. For in actual practice, the inspections only opened up opportunities for many inspectors to pilfer the boxes of their contents. In the end, Philippine President Aquino intervened and put an end to the practice.

All this attention given to the BOC reminded me of my dad’s stories about his dad, my “lolo” (grandfather). You see, my lolo was an officer with the BOC. His position exposed him to every opportunity to enrich himself, especially through accepting bribes. But he refused. And some of his own colleagues thought he was a fool to pass up the many “offers” that he would receive. He stood his ground.

Perhaps John’s description of Gaius is pertinent: “I was most happy when some friends arrived and brought the news that you persist in following the way of Truth. Nothing could make me happier than getting reports that my children continue diligently in the way of Truth!” (3 John 1.3–4 The Message)  And Peter instructs us: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1.3–4 NIV)

My lolo was in no way poor. He had sufficient resource to see his five children finish college. But neither was he rich. When he passed away he had no financial legacy to pass on to his family. But he had a far greater, more valuable, legacy: the legacy of character—of integrity, of upright values. And this legacy was firmly grounded in his faith in God.

This is the kind of legacy, the Christlike life, that is worth passing on to the generations that follow us. Just as Paul declared: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11.1 NIV; see also 2 Timothy 2.2)

—Keith Y. Jainga

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