Rethinking Your Reputation

“Hush, Dorothy,” whispered the Tiger, “you’ll ruin my reputation if you are not more discreet. It isn’t what we are, but what folks think we are, that counts in this world.”

~ Frank Baum in The Road to Oz

Early in my Christian life, I sometimes thought about how many of us Christians would follow Jesus if we lived during His time?

I was mainly thinking about the possibility of being killed for our faith, just like most of the apostles were.

However, after I began reading church history and got to know some people whom God was using mightily in my own lifetime, my question shifted from the threat of death to something else.

Imagine . . . a man who claims to be the Messiah, living during your time. This man is impressive, but He’s been accused of the following:

*He’s an illegitimate child (John 8:41).

*He’s a deceiver (John 7:12).

*He’s mentally ill (John 10:20).

*He’s demon possessed (Matt. 9:34; John 7:20).

*He’s Beelzebub [Satan] enfleshed (Matt. 10:25).

*He’s a blasphemer (Matt. 9:3; 26:65; Mark 2:7)

*He’s an open enemy to the Law of Moses. (To put this in modern terms, His teachings and practices went against the Bible).

In addition, His words are regularly misunderstood by His followers (John 21:22-23) and deliberately twisted by His detractors (Matthew 26:60-61).

I’m of course talking about Jesus of Nazareth. He was accused of all of the above.

Because these rumors were so widespread during His day, Scripture says that Jesus was a man of “no reputation” (Philippians 2:7).

The rumors that swirled around Jesus were vicious and unrelenting. But Christ survived them all because He wasn’t tied to His reputation. He placed it firmly on the cross before He went there.

The name devil means “slanderer” and “accuser.” It’s no accident that this is his name. The slandering word and the false accusation is his chief weapon.

Now . . . you’re a Christian “leader” who people respect and follow (your lead).

Go back to Century One and put yourself in Galilee with that band of 12 men and 8 or so women . . . the first followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

Your friends are questioning your judgment. You see, they’ve heard the rumors and believe them.

Not only is your judgment questioned, but so is your ethics.

You stop getting invitations to speak in the synagogues.

The Jewish counsel no longer invites you to their board meetings.

Your closest friends are wondering: “Why are you palling around with a demon-possessed man? Why are you following a servant of the devil? Why are befriending a cult leader? A master manipulator? A deceiver? A “bastard” born out of wedlock?

Hmmm . . .

I suppose the title of this post could easily be changed to: What percentage of “leaders” are willing to truly follow Jesus today?

Why this question?

Because every time one of the Lord’s servants is lied about, you will be tempted to preserve your own reputation and keep them at arms length.

Or worse, to betray them. (“I don’t know the man,” said Peter.)

And then will come the words of Christ thundering over the hills . . .

Remember the words I spoke to you: “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” John 15:20  

It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub [the head of devils], how much more the members of his household! Matthew 10:25 

This is the dilemma that Christian leaders of the past faced when hateful rumors were spread against the Anabaptists, John Wesley, George Fox, Watchman Nee, T. Austin-Sparks and every other servant of God worth their salt.

My friend Mary DeMuth said it beautifully in a blog post she wrote in June.

Mary writes,

There have been far too many times in my life when I’ve listened to gossip about someone else. If that’s the first thing I hear about him/her, it forever colors my view.

The older and wiser I get, the less I give weight to the first thing I hear. I try to meet people fresh, try to draw them out and discover their heart. Not always, but I try.

Because I know how painful it is to be misunderstood.

I thank Jesus, though, that He truly understands what it’s like to be misunderstood, to be insinuated against, to be judged wrongly. Consider this from John 2:24-25: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

He let God the Father hold His reputation. He understood the fickleness of the crowds. He felt the weight of their judgments, which ultimately led to His death.

So if you’re in that place where others are insinuating, press into Jesus. Give Him your worries and fears. He can shoulder such things. He understands. I do, too.

All told, if you are truly serving the Lord, you will be persecuted.

If God’s favor is on your life, you will be lied about and some people will believe the lies.

If Jesus is working through you to impact the kingdom of darkness, you will be the victim of rumors, gossip, slander, and other forms of abuse.

Just look at what was said about Paul in his day.

*He was accused of being a “cult” leader (Acts 24:5).

*He was accused of being a criminal (Acts 16:20-21; 24:5; 2 Tim. 2:9).

*He was accused of being a “cult” leader (Acts 24:5).

*He was accused of being a criminal (Acts 16:20-21; 24:5; 2 Tim. 2:9).

*He was accused of being a man pleaser and a coward (Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4).

*He was accused of being a false apostle (Gal. 1:11-2:10; 2 Cor. 11:16-12:12).

*He was accused of being a flatterer (1 Thess. 2:5).

*He was slandered and his good was evil spoken of (1 Cor. 10:30).

*He was accused of being greedy (1 Thess. 2:5,9).

*He was accused of seeking glory from men (1 Thess. 2:6).

*He was accused of extorting God’s people (2 Cor. 2:17; 11:7-21).

*He was accused of being a deceiver and a crafty manipulator (2 Cor. 6:8; 12:16).

*He was given a bad report (reputation) by some (2 Cor. 6:8).

*He was the subject of insults (2 Cor. 12:10).

*He was accused of being a controller (2 Cor. 10:1-2, 9-11).

*He was accused of blasphemy (Acts 24:6).

A friend of mine once said, “If you want to find an apostle, you’ll find him/her under a pile of rocks.”

Let me add: If you want to find a true servant of God, pull up their shirt and examine their back. You’ll find plenty of stab-wounds and beating-marks.

Metaphorically: if someone doesn’t have the knife out for you, you may not be impacting the darkness very much.

Woe to you when all men speak well of you . . . Luke 6:26  

Point: If you wish to serve the Lord and have Him use you mightily, your reputation must go to the cross.

If Jesus didn’t seek reputation when He was on earth, why should you?

If your Lord was a man of “no reputation,” why should you seek to salvage your own?

Consequently, would you really follow Jesus if you were with Him during the days of His flesh?

Or to a finer point on it, are you willing to really follow Him today?

Related:

5 Marks That God is Using You Tremedously

Religious Jealousy: The Unspoken Root Behind Hatred, Slander & Murder

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear or Read

Have You Heard? The Plague of Gossip & Slander in the Body of Christ

Warning: The World is Watching How We Christians Treat One Another

Rick Warren’s Horrific Tragedy & the Sickening Response of Some Christians

The Unbroken Christian

An Important Insight from President Obama

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Envy & Jealousy on Facebook

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Comments

  1. says

    Excellent post. This should be included in the Follow Jesus 101 course :)

    I also relate to Mary DeMuth’s saying.

    Following the Lamb is for realz! In many lands even today the heat is turned on all believers. May we pray for all believers that are facing attacks both physically, spiritually and otherwise.
    The day may and most likely will come where the heat of persecution will be turned way up here in the west and may we all sing in one anthem. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

    Thanks Frank.

  2. says

    I believe it was much harder to follow Jesus when he was on earth than it is now. This is in spite of the fact that followers actually met Him face to face and today we need to go on faith about Jesus.

  3. Robyn G says

    We will be loved and accepted by those who belong to CHRIST…and thankfully in my life, those people are a good number of folks and family. What is key, is that those in the world who will “hate” us often feel very warm toward us, like us, or tolerate us until they are directly faced with the fact that JESUS is what drives us…when we finally have the conversation or it becomes apparent or obvious and JESUS is uttered or seen in our conversation or our actions…that’s when HATE will show it’s head…because it really isn’t about US….it’s about HIM….what I love about those moments…though heartbreaking to be face to face with someone lost…is the tangible presence of JESUS that we will recognize…a faith building moment

  4. Pastor Mark says

    Thanks for reminding me that if we LOVE AS JESUS LOVES the world may, no, the Master says “will,” actually HATE us. This didn’t seem to change Jesus’ approach. In Luke 14:25ff Jesus even attempts to scare would-be followers away! Jesus’ crazy Apostles echo his teaching that we will likely suffer for doing good!

    Apparently, Jesus simply did not know which leadership and management principles to put into place. Surely pioneers like Adoniram Judson could have won all of Burma in just a few years, instead of laboring and suffering for so long to reach a convert.

    There is only One Person whose opinion of me matters. Why is that so hard to remember? Thanks for keeping me on point! Jesus rules.
    Christ in you, the hope of glory!

  5. Greg Amey says

    So good! Its so all about Jesus. Incredible amounts of wasted energy has to be expended in keeping your “reputation” It would be exhausting, and always involves compromise, whereby neither party is satisfied. The greatest works of God that you can clearly, and visibly see and are tangible have occurred through the simplicity of people who have just remained true to themselves and obeyed God. Can can turn your cup of cold water in His Name, into an “ocean” of blessing. (Or whatever Jesus asks you to do) Thank you so much Frank.

  6. Michael Kampff says

    I love this: “If you wish to serve the Lord and have Him use your mightily, your reputation must go to the cross.” This, to me, is the essence of “dying to self”. Only when our agenda is replaced by His, can we be of true use to Him and have the greatest impact for His kingdom.

    Lord, I pray that your will be done, in, around, and through my life. Help me perceive those who may persecute me for my faith as what they truly are – an opportunity to demonstrate my faith and my love for you.

  7. Vinny says

    How timely Frank!
    I am beginning to tell the difference of when this happens because of my flesh or because of Him in me…….. I have a deep abiding peace and don’t detour from the direction I believe I am to go.
    I am at rest in Him!

  8. Beverly says

    I find listening to the indwelling Christ within me a lot easier than trying to “follow Christ” as we so often hear about today. As you pointed out, the Jesus who walked the earth is not of the same reputation as the “sanitized” Christ people follow today in principle, often politicized.

    To fall more deeply in love with Jesus, the one who loves me first and dearly, is the joy behind the strength I receive. He is my first love experience in every situation. Whatever worldly power game we humans experience here is predictable and boring in comparison to the riches we “get to” know in Christ Jesus, our Lord. People “reflect” whatever image they fix their eyes on and love the most.

    Like Paul, my so-called influence should lead back to the indwelling Christ leading each from within as the ONLY source of spiritual power. There’s the rub. Will each one of us trust Christ to lead from within? or will human power want to “help God out” and end up with a following of yet another human leader in the guise of following Christ?

    Preach the crucified Christ, says Paul. The Power of the Christian walk begins, remains, and ends in the Cross–no matter what the situation–because that is where grace and mercy is held in abundance as we learn to reflect His image as led from within.

  9. says

    Good for us to consider all this often together to strengthen each other. The battle is not carnal……we must remember that. Those who hurl the stones are oh so wounded and deceived.

    We have more time to pray for them than Stephen did…..Praise the Lord for that!

  10. says

    Frank, this is one of the most sobering yet encouraging posts I’ve read in a long time. Earlier today I was reading someone who seemed to be willfully misconstruing my words and I have to admit that it got my dander up. (Does anyone really say “got my dander up” any more?) Your post here is a welcome corrective to my thoughts and feelings on the matter. Thank you, brother, thank you.

    Tim

  11. Max says

    Difficulties and pain always speak to us. You have made a good argument for us to consider the possibility that the message may be, “You are on the right track, be encouraged”

    Thanks.

  12. Keith says

    Great post Frank! Too often I have worried about having a good reputation among men. Although I do believe we should be well spoken of but never at the expense of compromise. The scripture in John 12:42-43 has recently resonated with me: “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess [him], lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

    I pray I’m more like my Savior than I am the men of this world and that I live to please God more than to please my ego!

  13. Rae says

    I do understand the pain of being misunderstood and being gossiped about…it is NOT pleasant at all. I am learning to listen more to God’s thoughts of me rather than man’s…it is a hard place of growth coming from a very image driven family line. However, all things are possible with God!

    Good reminder that when things are against you BECAUSE you are following Christ…you are on the right path to freedom. Thank you! I needed this very much today!

  14. says

    Amen.

    “Blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake.”

    We may not quite measure up as we ought. And we might be quite a failure for not wanting to ‘make waves’..but thanks be to God that He is faithful, even when we are not.

    Nice work, Frank.

    Thanks.

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