Reputation is a difficult thing for us in the church.
First, the culture around us not only values it but worships it. Reputation is what drives success and all the more so since the advent of social media. From Yelp to Facebook, a soiled reputation means failure in business, relationships, and self esteem. And a good reputation can earn you lower interest rates, more customers, the admiration of your friends, and even a promotion.
Second, our theology tells us that if we follow Jesus, we will get a bad reputation. We will be persecuted, slandered, and be the source of plenty of gossip. And that shouldn’t matter because while “humankind looks at the appearance, God looks at the heart.” It’s who we are inside that matters, not what others think of us.
But third, a biblical study of the people of God will show us the power of reputation for evangelism. From Solomon, whose reputation drew royalty from around the known world, to Paul, who urges Christians to have a good reputation so that our message may be believed once shard, reputation is important to our witness. When the church is known for its infighting and infidelity, the gospel cannot be believed, and so our God-given, Spirit-driven mission to some extent depends on our reputation.
So what are we to do? How much effort do we spend on gaining a good reputation? How much do we focus on God’s opinion of us rather than the worlds? and how much do we ignore the modes and methods of reputation building that this society obsesses over?
1 Peter 2:12 says, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Let your reputation grow not as a success in your field, or as a person well versed in the trivia of the world, but as someone who is Good, who bears the fruit of the Spirit, and who reflects the character of God. After that, it’s up to God.