I’m fascinated by the Bible characters we know next to nothing about. Euodia and Syntyche were two hard-working Christians who had trouble getting along (Philippians 4:2-3). Hymenaeus and Philetus were heretics whose message spread like cancer (2 Timothy 2:17-18). Jabez was a man determined not to cause pain to others (1 Chronicles 4:10). Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24). Rhoda was the girl who was so excited about Peter’s return from prison that she forgot to open the gate before running off to spread the news (Acts 12:13-14).
These characters were just footnotes in a much bigger story. We’re only given the briefest of glimpses into their lives before they disappear from the Biblical account forever, which is exactly what makes them so interesting. An innumerable multitude of individuals have played some role in the stories of the Bible, but the vast majority of them go unnamed and unacknowledged. What makes this handful of individuals so different? Why are we hearing their names? Why are we seeing parts of their stories?
The really sobering question, though, is this:
What if I was one of those footnotes?
This isn’t ultimately a story about us; it’s a story about the greatest thing that’s ever been done in the whole history of the created universe. We’re just the lucky ones who got in on the ground floor—and while we each play a role in that story, it doesn’t mean we all get to be Peter or Paul with pages and pages written about our exploits.
I do have to wonder, though—if my life was reduced to a footnote in the Bible’s narrative, what would it say? That I was strong in the faith? That I held fast? Or that I made a habit of sticking my foot in my mouth and making poor decisions and causing my brethren to stumble? What kind of legacy am I leaving behind—even if it’s only a footnote?
When it’s all said and done, if our lives are worth mentioning at all, it’s either going to be as a positive example or as a cautionary tale. The decisions we’re making today, in the here-and-now, are pushing us toward one of those two possibilities.
So which is it? What kind of footnote is your life shaping up to be?
One of my favorite briefly-mentioned Biblical characters is Dorcas. By the time we’re introduced to her, she’s already dead—but her legacy isn’t. We discover she was “full of good works and charitable deeds” (Acts 9:36). God uses Peter to bring Dorcas back to life, and that’s the last we see of her. That’s Dorcas’ footnote in its entirety: Full of good works and charitable deeds, and a roomful of people eager to testify on her behalf.
I’m glad my life isn’t an open book for others to peer into, and I’m glad my worst decisions aren’t visible to anyone with a Bible—but the fact is, we’re leaving footnotes, you and I. Footnotes for the people around us, footnotes for the people coming after us. It’s not a matter of “if”; it’s simply a matter of “what kind.”
I hope, when future generations look back on the footnotes of our lives, they see what we see when we look back at Dorcas:
And a footnote God can be proud of.
Until next time,