In memoriam: Jerome C. Davies (1938-2011)

The New Testament tells us that those who are in Christ will be “sanctified”; that is, progressively purged of their sin and made more like Jesus over time. You’d think this would mean that the believers you encounter in life would be more Christ-like, on average, than the non-believers are.

I’m not sure I’ve actually seen much evidence of this. For every genuinely loving, self-sacrificing, godly believer I know, there are two or three rascals still clinging to their old ways with embarrassing tenacity. And although there are plenty of self-centered and arrogant jerks among the non-believers I know, there are also some amazing ones who exhibit aspects of Christ’s character far better than most Christians do.

One of those was my Dad. He’d be 85 today if he had survived his battle with pulmonary fibrosis. In the nearly 13 years since he passed, I’ve come to appreciate more and more just what a godly man he was. Here’s just a smattering of his life principles that have rubbed off on me:

  • Putting yourself in others’ shoes. Without even realizing he was citing the “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12) my Dad consistently encouraged my brother and me to consider the perspective of others, and to act accordingly. He even once told me, “you never really know your opinion is correct on any issue until you can put yourself in the shoes of those on the other side, and articulate their arguments back to yourself.” I think his debate team competitions shaped him on this, and it made him one of the most empathetic people I’ve ever known.
  • Looking out for the little guy. My Dad had deep compassion for all people, especially the disadvantaged and disempowered. He wanted to level the playing field, to help others overcome adversity, and to raise up those whom society looked down on. He always rooted for the underdog, and railed against oppression of all kinds. In this he was the spitting image of Jesus (see Matthew 18:6, 10, 23:13-15, Luke 17:1-2, Acts 20:35.)
  • Valuing people more than things. My Dad wasn’t the greatest at giving tangible gifts — he usually left that to my Mom — but he was terrific at giving experiences. We went to more sporting events, plays, musicals, museums, vacation destinations, etc., than I can name. I asked him once about this choice in gift-giving, and he said something to the effect of a shared memory being more valuable than any merely physical token. I think he was right, and Jesus does too (Mark 10:21-22, Matthew 6:19-21).
  • Giving others the benefit of the doubt. Except when there was tangible evidence to the contrary, my Dad always assumed good faith on the part of others. He knew that every human action sprang from a mix of motives and experiences, and that if we only knew what someone had gone through, we might judge their words and deeds very differently. I think of him when I read Luke 9:51-56 or Mark 9:38-41.
  • Inclusivity and fairness. The main reason my Dad never became a believer is that he frowned on what he saw as the “exclusivity” of Christianity. I think this was a misinterpretation, and one that the believers he witnessed — often not acting Christ-like — unfortunately did nothing to help refute. At any rate, my Dad’s bedrock belief was that all people should be welcomed, included, and treated with dignity. And though he probably didn’t realize it, this very principle is in fact woven tightly throughout the New Testament. (Luke 22:24-27, Acts 15:5-11, Galatians 3:26-28, Philippians 2:3-4, James 2:1-9, 1 Peter 5:2-3.)
  • Generosity. My Dad’s heart poured out like a river to everyone around him. He gave of his time, his money, and his heart without a second thought. It’s amazing having grown up in such abject poverty that he would so freely give of his hard-won earnings, but maybe his experiences made him better able than most to “put himself” in poor shoes. In any event, no matter who asked my Dad anything, he would always try to find a way to say yes. Little did he know that God was smiling on every one of those occasions. (John 12:3-8, Luke 6:38, Galatians 6:2, 1 John 3:17-18, James 2:15-17.)

This world would be a better place if we all stood up for the things my Dad did. He was a truly remarkable man, and the principles he lived for turn out to be eternal ones. Happy birthday, Dad, from one of the many people whose lives you made better!

If this post inspired you, consider making a donation today to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation in memory of Jerry Davies.


  1. Sarah Davies Avatar

    Stephen, this is a beautiful remembrance of your Dad!! I agree with everything you have said. I would add that when I go through past photos of him and of him with family and others, I have never found even ONE where he was not smiling!! A few months ago I was with some friends who knew him well – his name came up in the conversation and the comment was “EVERYBODY loved Jerry Davies”!! I think he spread a “Jesus” kind of love to all…………….!

  2. Lizzy Avatar

    I have several really sweet memories of Grandpa before he died. He was always really fun and loving to me and I knew I was special to him:) I wish I could’ve had more time to get to know him better.

  3. Steve Avatar

    That’s the Jerry I knew too… from watching sports games with the Davies, to sleepovers, to dinners with our families. He even hosted me in high school for a career day at his job, and I saw firsthand his care and the respect his colleagues had for him. He was a good man, and I miss him too. Wonderful tribute! And happy birthday, Jerry!

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