Trying to hold onto reputation is like holding a bar of soap.
I’ve been considering reputation a lot recently. Because how I’m perceived is important to me. Too important. I want to be someone, and to be regarded as someone, with integrity, as someone who is passionate about Jesus and tries to love others as best I can.
But trying to hold onto reputation is like holding a bar of soap.
There’s a tricky balance in this because there’s lot in the bible about being faithful representatives of Jesus (Like this for example). And trying to be faithful representatives, by God’s grace, is exactly what we should aim to be. But even with the best intentions and motives in the world – even if we did happen to be perfect – we can’t control how others perceive us.
When Jesus walked on earth He had a great reputation. And He also had a terrible reputation. He was called the Messiah, the son of God, and was regularly approached by the sick because of his reputation for healing. And yet he was also called a glutton, a drunkard and a blasphemer.
But Jesus wasn’t swayed either way by his reputation, He wasn’t defined by how He was perceived . He let go of his rights, his reputation, his heavenly status, even His life. But one thing he never let go of was His identity as the son of God.
Jesus knew there was something more important than reputation.
It’s called identity.
Identity shapes our thinking, our hearts, our behaviour, our actions, our character. If we chase after reputation we become nothing more than others’ expectations, but if we truly embrace our identity we can fully become all that we’re called to be.
The world says we somehow need to find our identity, either from within ourselves or from outside of ourselves through relationships, money, jobs, achievements, homes, clothes…whatever. But true identity can only be given to us by our Heavenly Father. As the Father said to Jesus at His baptism “This is my son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” He also says to us, in and through Christ, “You are my daughter/son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
So, I’ve been thinking: What’s the noisiest, loudest voice in my life? The crowds – our wider circle of contacts, our acquaintances – are often the loudest and the noisiest. But they’re actually the least important. Seeking good reputation is often about seeking the approval of the crowds. The crowds shout, they yell, and they often drown out the softer voice of our loved ones, those closest to us, and our Heavenly Father who speaks with a still, soft voice. We can listen to the noise of the unimportant crowd or to to the important still-soft voice of the father.
If our identity is given to us by God, if we truly embrace our identity as forgiven, restored , deeply loved, children of God then what God thinks of us, and what He says to us should be more important to us than what others think and say about us.
If I’m going to have a good reputation in any place I want it to be in heaven. If I happen to have one on earth too, then that will be a bonus.
Laying down our desire for “earthly reputation” is not about becoming reckless, selfish, irresponsible or just plain stupid for the sake of it. Remember, we’re still called to be faithful representatives of Jesus.
I’ve stopped trying to hold onto that bar of soap. Or at least, I’m trying through God’s Spirit, one day at a time.