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In the place where I grew up there was a man who over the years had made the lives of those who lived round about him a misery. He was abusive, aggressive and manipulative; he liked to show people he had power over their lives. He was the centre of his own universe; as long as he was okay he didn’t care if he made his neighbours’ lives a living hell. Well, he died a couple of weeks ago and the verdict of those who knew him – family, neighbours and community – was unanimous: “Him! He’ll no be missed.”

I’ve thought a lot about that – what a damning verdict on a life.

The thing is it all comes down to the choices we make in life and the way we use the influence we have with others. Everybody has choices, everybody has influence. The only question is – will we make our choices and use our influence for evil or for good. Will we choose to follow the path God has laid out for us; to work with Him to make this world a better place? Or do we make our own path; and work alone to make sure we’re okay irrespective of those we might hurt along the way. The choice is always ours, but the thing to remember is the verdict on our life isn’t just made by our family, friends and community; ultimately it’s made by God.

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. (Gal 6:7-8 The Message)

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