A lot of life intersections lately have brought up the old familiar theme of reputation. The question itself is a tricky one – asking me to consider what others think of me. That’s some slippery ground….
The older we get the more we see and experience reputations falling down all around us. It may be as benign as a grammar elitist switching a “they’re” for a “their” and can range to a family broken apart by any sundry of sin. As a counselor, I’m always shocked that people think they are going to tell me some amazingly clever sin that I’ve never heard before. (Haven’t they read the Old Testament?) In reality, people aren’t so worried about my hearing a sordid tale of sin, they are petrified that I will be forced into revising their ever-precious reputation. Brace yourself for this counselor, “I’m not who you thought I was!”
And what’s this about “they?”…I have yet to walk into a teaching experience that isn’t prefaced by a half hour of confessing that my heart is wrapped up way too much in my reputation as a teacher than it is about Jesus’ work on the cross. Or when I get a report card that I did no work for (and in Adrianne’s case, tried to subvert!), and instantly cozy up to some fictitious place in my happy world that is reserved for parents of smart people. Reputations are Turkish Delight.
It happens all the time…each step in our life is slowly building a reputation for ourselves. Most of the words translated in the Bible use the word “precious”, “rare”, “weighty” and “influential” to try and define the word we read as “reputation”. Certainly, a good reputation is more precious that most anything. When Paul talks describes Jesus as having “no reputation”, the word actually means “to be emptied”- the One whose reputation was spotless, decided to empty it out. On the other hand, I’m busy filling up a reputation bag with cheese wheels and hopeful notions of what I think I am in my best moments.
My delusions are rectified only by the belief that my reputation rests SOLEY on the work of Jesus Christ and it’s declaration of His love for sinners. One day I will stop teaching, stop being able to feed loads of people in my house, even care for myself. I will lose everything possible to build my reputation upon. In that moment, all I will have left is a reputation built on the Cross that will, by grace alone, usher me into eternity.
At best, I have been considered kind, generous, and a good teacher. At worst, I am derisive, snarky, and aloof. If I live out of either of those very accurate moments, I ride a roller coaster of pride and punitive self-abasement. Neither is good for my soul, or anyone else’s for that matter…
What to do with these reputation run-ins? Jesus provided the ultimate example. Empty them out. Ditch the great teacher, awesome friend, missionary (gasp!) rep and empty everything till all that stands is the Cross. It is only then that we can “fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith”.
To God be the Glory forever.