Feb 5, 2011

Sam Ericsson: Lawyer, Visionary, Disciple

Today in Fairfax, Virginia, hundreds of people are gathered at a memorial service for Sam Ericsson, to celebrate his life-- the life of a truly great man. Sam passed away on January 21 after a long battle with cancer.

Sam was a spiritual father and mentor to hundreds of lawyers around the world. He began as a pioneer and workhorse in the area of religious liberty legislation and litigation, and he served Christian lawyers as the Executive Director of the Christian Legal Society from 1985 to 1991. Prior to that, he was the Director of the Center for Law and Religious Freedom.

In 1991, he founded Advocates International, an organization that has truly made disciples of nations and the lawyers who work within their systems. Thousands of lawyers around the world have benefited from the influence of Advocates. For more on this amazing ministry go here.

Sam was an inspiring disciple of Jesus. He opened his home to hundreds of men and women, gave most of money away, and cheerfully gave himself to the mission that God had called him to: encouraging and equipping lawyers to serve Jesus in a thousand different ways. He wasn't critical; he was open-handed and shared his work with anyone. When my book Redeeming Law came out in 2007, he bought 6,000 copies to send to Christian lawyers everywhere. It had nothing to do with me or my ideas: to my knowledge, he never read the book! I wondered aloud to him why he would sink his resources into a project without knowing the details. With a smile, he answered, "I bought them based on the cover." As far as he was concerned, if the book encouraged lawyers to be a redeeming influence in the world, that was the only "detail" he needed to know.

I'll close with an excerpt from the letter sent to the CLS membership by my friend and colleague, Kim Colby, Senior Counsel for the Center for the Center for Law and Religious Freedom:

Sam wholeheartedly loved the Lord and life. He was a mentor and friend to many, but particularly to lawyers. As a Bible teacher, he brought to life Psalm 37, the Good Samaritan parable, Nehemiah, and so many other scriptures. Constantly, he challenged us with their practical application to everyday life.

But Sam never lived an everyday life. With a huge smile, he would beam, “How can anyone not be an optimist after the Resurrection?” A passionate and enthusiastic man, he strove to do good for his Neighbor, whether that was the person next door or a stranger in a distant land.

Fortunately for CLS, religious liberty was one of Sam’s primary passions. He was the engine behind the passage of the federal Equal Access Act in 1984. As a result, millions of public schoolchildren have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel in Bible studies after school. Countless people around the world enjoy greater religious liberty thanks to Sam’s efforts. After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and Russia, Sam helped attorneys in numerous countries write constitutional protection for religious liberty into their new constitutions.

Sam constantly preached thankfulness, taking seriously the injunction to give thanks to God in all things. When we suffered a setback on a case or legislation, Sam would insist that we give thanks and even celebrate with an impromptu party, trusting in God’s perfect will for an eventual positive outcome.

And he was a man of integrity. During my last visit with Sam, while praying for healing, he gave God heartfelt thanks for the lessons he was learning from his pain.

Quite simply, Sam lived Micah 6:8, a verse he quoted frequently: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Already missing him, we give great thanks to God for his life. Please keep his wife Bobby, daughter Monica, and sons Ryan and Nick in your prayers.

Sam was-- and is-- the real thing. We'll miss him, but he's left a great and lasting legacy to build on and an example of a life well lived for us to follow.

Thank you, Lord, for Sam Ericsson.

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