Shape your time
August 31, 2005
Walk into Westminster Abbey and you'll see on William Wilberforce's tomb this epitaph:
"In an age and country fertile in great and good men, he was among the foremost of those who fixed the character of his times.
Because to the high and various talents, to warm benevolence and to universal candour, he added the abiding eloquence of a Christian life."
Shortly before he died, on July 26, 1833, the British House of Commons passed the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery, the bill he had worked most of his life to see passed.
I know we must be careful in not trying to become what we aren't and what the times don't call for, but I am struck by the power of the idea: He was among the foremost of those who fixed the character of his times.
We all "fix" the character of our times, be it with our children or grandchildren, our business associates or neighbours. For most of us, what we "fix" is not nation shaping as with Wilberforce, but we influence whether we intend to or not.
In describing King David, the Apostle Paul in a message to the Jewish community gives a simple, seeming throw-away-line: "For when David had served God's purposes in his own generation, he fell asleep" (Acts 13:36).
King David, like William Wilberforce, like you and me, had a purpose, and it is to influence and shape our environment, its assumptions and people's character.
Father of life and light, by your indwelling Spirit, help me to be conscious of the "fixing" my life affects this day, and by your love and grace may the voice others hear too have an "eloquence of a Christian life." Amen.
"He was among the foremost of those who fixed the character of his times."