It would seem that most of us would like to have a good reputation. Most of us would tie this in to a successful life surrounded by honour. It is the building up of one’s life journey, preparing for a eulogy that will bring ultimate honour at one’s death.
I have always felt that this was my task in life and even thought Solomon himself tossed and turned on this and have pursued it with rigor.
However, I think it is safe to say that there are different levels of reputation and that not all of us our in control of any one portion. There is my personal reputation as it comes to keeping my word, the business reputation that keeps to core values, the spiritual reputation that sees me following God, and there are moral values that see me honouring others and the life that I have been given responsibility for.
I see this more and more as I get older – I will fail in one or more of these areas of life. I see more clearly that it is not pursuit of a good reputation that builds my character, it is in the failure that I find out who I really am and what I am really made of. Please understand, that when I say failure, that might not mean I actually failed, but that others or circumstances, or judgement, or gossip has determined such a failure.
Looking back on my life, I have seen many instances where people have tried to determine my reputation. My parents for sure, my siblings most definitely, and then as I started my own family there is no doubt that my leadership in the home has been one of the most watched events in my life. God has graciously given me much honour in my home life and I have been given much honour by others because of His grace.
In business, I looked upon my success as a good reputation, however, that has been uncovered to be something very fleeting. Today more than ever, I see my success as a leveraging tool that can be abused by myself or by others. No longer am I seen as a blessing to those I work for and lately I have to watch myself because I am sensing my own doubt about being a blessing for those I work with. Others want to take, while I strive to give – you can imagine what those who do not get say about me. As I get older, I realize that my giftedness comes completely from the hand of God. As those I work for only care for the money I make for them, I spend time building, growing and developing in others the values that God has given to me – that is seen as a complete waste of time. The idea is that they get everything they can from me and when I have emptied myself, they let me go and hire another – my values are not as important as my giftedness to succeed – trust me that is depressing, especially for a man, as we unfortunately tie our value to our work experiences.
So I have learned much over these past five years on how to rely on my reputation as a follower of Jesus knowing that it is my response to life in this arena that defines me most. How I respond to gossip, slander, abuse, misguided values, leadership who have lost their way – it all matters – because it defines who I am in the most important relationship of my life.
A good reputation is better than the most expensive perfume. Understanding this in the light of God’s grace and mercy and understanding that it only matters what He says when we stand before Him and not what is said at our funeral. So when I think of those who have died for their faith, think of those who were burned at the stake, I realize that the world called them failures and yet I believe that as they died, Jesus was no longer sitting at the right hand of God, but was standing, taking notice of the reputation of one who loved Him so much. Job did the same thing – revealing his love and honour to God, even when his reputation seemed to be stripped completely away – yet he made sure to express his honour and love to God and never once did he curse Him – all this while God, the angels, Satan and demons watched.
If you find yourself a bit lost, do not worry, look at Saul. He was so determined that he was building a good reputation for himself that it took a personal visit from Jesus Himself to get his attention and bring truth into his life. Today we know Saul as the apostle Paul and what an honour it was for him to declare the foolishness of the cross and to the wisdom of the world – the death and resurrection of our Lord.