You may have just thought, “It doesn’t matter what people think about me. All that matters is what God thinks about me.”
Yes, and no.
David cries out in Psalm 109:21: But deal well with me, O Sovereign Lord, for the sake of your own reputation! As an avid Christ follower, I share the responsibility with all other Christians to protect His reputation. I have in my hands the power to smear the name of Jesus by living my life poorly, or elevate the name of Jesus by living my life well. It is true that if I live well, people may still slander me and the Jesus I follow. I am not responsible for such instances beyond seeking peace with others and confessing my own errors. It is also true, however, that I can live my life poorly and cause people to rightfully shake their heads and ask, “She calls herself a Christian?” For those instances, I am fully responsible.
People have an opinion about us.
If any person who knows us is asked, “What do you think about (your name)?” he or she would have an answer. Even people, who have not yet met us, have formed an opinion based on all they have heard about us so far, accurate or not.
I was reading about Ruth in the book of Ruth this week and noticed how highly she was viewed. Ruth arrived to Bethlehem with Naomi, her mother-in-law. Both were widows and poor. Ruth was gathering barley in a field, walking behind the harvesters, when a man named Boaz, spotted her.
Now watch what is said about her.
Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”…And the foreman replied, “…She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes rest in the shelter.” (Ruth 2:5,7)
What would people say about you?
It turns out that Boaz had already heard about Ruth, and what he had heard aligned with what he saw that day. He immediately took steps to protect her. Boaz invited Ruth to stay with the women workers and warned the young men not to treat her roughly. When Ruth thanked him, he replied, “…I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers.” (2:11)
Word gets around about each of us.
Part of the reason I want to live well is to develop a reputation that honors the Lord Jesus Christ. When people hear that I am a Christian, I want my character to be worthy of His name. There are negative reports about me. In some cases I have earned that report and have confessed my involvement from every angle made known to me. In other cases, I have not earned the negative report. Even though we do not have control over what others think about us, we are still to keep an eye out for the reputation of Jesus wherever we go: Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:27)
When people watch me, what do they see?
I hope they see the fruit of the Spirit….love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. (Galatians 5: 22-23) I personally struggle with “gentle”, and I sometimes struggle with patience. Thankfully, I can confess those times to the Lord, and to people, and then keep inviting the Lord to change me through prayers like this: Lord, please continue to gentle me and calm me down when things are hard so that I reflect your character.
I am not talking about people-pleasing.
We don’t treat people well to please people, but to please God.
- If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18)
- To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22)
Protecting the reputation of Jesus is important, because people are watching, and the opinion people have about us automatically reflects on our Savior.
Picture Explanation: I am no longer the only Master’s degree in the family. This daughter now has an M.S. in Occupational Therapy. And while earning it, she developed the hard-working reputation of Ruth.
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