Every two years my brothers and I travel back to the birthplace of our parents in Saskatchewan for a special brothers’ retreat. We always spend some time in the little Mennonite cemetery north of Waldheim where my Mom and Dad are buried. It’s a sacred space. We walk the cemetery, looking at the graves of our great-grandparents, our grandparents, and then we spend time at Mom and Dad’s gravesite. We talk and reflect on the long line of faithful heritage that has been passed down to us. Our ancestors did not waver in their commitment to Christ, to His gospel, and to the call of God on their lives. They took their stand and were faithful to the end.
When I think of their faithful allegiance to Christ, I’m reminded of the historical account of the heroic stand of Leonidas and his faithful band of 300 Spartans who were trained to stand or die. “Come back with your shield or on it,” a Spartan mother told her son. The year was 480 BC. The Persian King Xerxes was on a revengeful march against the Greeks with the greatest army the world had ever seen. Simply to pass by the king in review took a full week. Disastrously, the Greek were betrayed at the pass called Thermopylae. Recounting this event, Os Guinness in his book, The Call, tells us that death was coming as surely as the dawn for the Spartans who made their last desperate stand. The Greek historian, Herodotus says that when their swords were gone, the Spartans fought on to the last man with their hands and teeth.
But before they died, they sent home the stirring message that has become their epitaph: “Stranger, tell the Spartans that we behaved as they would wish us to, and are buried here.” Dedicated and courageous, they did their duty. They stood fast to the end.
And then Os Guinness asks this probing question of us today. “Will it be said of followers of Jesus Christ, “Passerby, tell our Lord that we have behaved as he would wish us to behave, and are buried here.”?
One day, unless Christ returns first, each of our physical remains will be buried somewhere. Our days as Corpath business people will be over. The end will have come as surely as the dawn. If your children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren were to pull up a chair by your graveside, what would they say?
In his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says the second habit of successful people (after being proactive) is to, “Begin with the end in mind.” When my Father was dying he said, “So this is how it ends.” Sometimes the most important thing we can do is step back from the busyness of our days, and think about the end of it all. And ask ourselves as Christian business and professional people…are we living faithfully in devotion and service to Christ: in our business lives, in our family lives, in our personal lives?
I’m looking forward to our brothers’ retreat this June. We’ll likely play some golf, tour some historic sites, enjoy a meal with relatives, and then we’ll head for the cemetery. And for a few moments, we’ll stand in silence around our parents’ graves. And I’ll renew my commitment to live faithfully in that long lineage of allegiance to Christ. How about you?
“Passerby, tell our Lord that we behaved as he would wish us to behave, and are buried here.”
Gordon Dirks, President (Interim)