You and Your Reputation

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There are only a few things in life that we are willing to die for – our faith in Christ, our family, our nation and our reputation. Perhaps the list could be extended a bit more, but it is certainly not very long. In the next few moments I would like to shorten it by one.

During my development years I heard a phrase that was consistently repeated to me by various people that I respected. It was, “If you don’t have your reputation, then what have you got?” Your excellent name, as it represents your integrity, faith and purpose is important in life to see you through the good times and bad. People may take your job, your house or whatever, but they can’t take away your fine name. At least that is what I was told. Unfortunately what I was told is not exactly accurate.

After serving as pastors in a church for a number of years, my wife and I were faced with one of the major trials of our lives. We had taken on the responsibilities of being shepherds to a church that had forced the previous pastor to resign. There was no evidence of wrongdoing on his part, only a myriad of unsubstantiated accusations. With full knowledge of this fact we took on the work in hopes of moving beyond its known character. For a number of years it looked as if the church had put its old habits to rest.

Then overnight things began to change. An unsettledness or restlessness in one small group became noticeable. This grew to a full fledged opposition that took aim at us with a violence that we could not understand. Towards the end of our ministry at this church new accusations were be created so fast that we could not cope with them. Each day we would hear of things being said that impugned our character. They were so ridiculous that we thought no one would ever believe them. But, they did.

On a very dark night in our life we made a difficult decision to resign. Many things were taken from us that night, but one of the most precious was our reputation. We had attempted to live an exemplary life in pursuit of our highest goal, to be like Jesus. Yet, in our world of friends, congregation, denomination and community we were the vilest of sinners. The false accusations and ferocious condemnations marred the canvas of our character. We were robbed. Our reputation was gone.

We struggled with a deep contradiction. Without our good name how could we ever serve God again? Then one day my eyes fell upon the scriptures in Philippians 2: 1-11. One verse burned a hole in my heart. It was verse seven. Concerning Jesus it says, “But, he made himself of no reputation…” He emptied himself of his eternal reputation to start his ministry here on earth. This statement amazed me. His starting point for service was laying down his majestic name. In that moment it all became so obvious to me, to truly serve the King of Kings you have to lose your reputation.

When you really think about it many of God’s heroes had less than impeccable reputations. Paul wrote a good portion of the New Testament. But He was a Sanctioned Terrorist. The prophets spoke as the oracles of God granting Israel audience with the Almighty. Yet, most of them were considered crazy. Jacob, who fathered the twelve tribes, was a common thief. Joseph, the savior of his world, was an accused rapist. And Moses, the great liberator and Law giver, was a banished murderer. But do you remember what they were accused of when you think about the impact of their lives? Does God?

In business your name and what it stands for is valuable. In ministry your reputation is of little consequence. We fight so hard to spare our image in the eyes of people when in truth it can actually be a hindrance to the working out of our faith. Who you are in life is of less importance than who you are in Christ.

Over the years I have watched scores of pastors who have had their good names dragged through the mire of life be raised up by the hand of God in a miraculous way. It fills my heart with joy each time I see these unknown messengers of God go on to perform some of the King’s most amazing feats and unveil some of his riches blessings.   Reputation is nothing to God.