How much time and energy do I spend wondering what others think of me? There is something inside all of us that wants others to think well of us. How do we manage that? In a culture of personal validation, authenticity and self-expression what are we to do with the inclination to manage our reputations?
In our flipped blog series, we see how Jesus has spoken to our use of power and money in ways that cut threw a lot of surface solutions. Similarly, Jesus doesn’t mince words when addressing this concern for managing reputations. Speaking specifically to the religious leaders of his day Jesus says:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but, on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 23:27-28
Jesus’ harshest language is for those seeking to build their own reputation, influence and platform by appearing to be more holy than they actually are. It is directed at those specifically faking how holy and God like they are.
Jesus spent time with all kinds of people, but didn’t call them out with nearly the same directness as he does of those faking their true character as religious leaders. It is dangerous to play the religious game of impressing others outwardly.
Think through this self-assessment and take the opportunity to step back to refocus if you any of these describe you:
(1) I only share about sin as a past failure.
(2) I claim humility, but privately have no idea what that means or how to lead from weakness or failure.
(3) I find myself never or rarely with people Jesus spent his time with.
(4) I judge other people based on what I see on the outside without any relationship or understanding of their background and progress.
If you personally identify with any of these or find yourself a part of an institution that embodies these misplaced values you are directly opposed to a life Jesus is calling you to. You are invited to change.
In a culture with consistently changing norms and religious institutions often more concerned with appearances than heart transformation we can easily get entangled managing perceptions. Imagine spending the emotional energy and worry time actually being people who love like Jesus, who find time for deep human connections in their neighborhoods. This soul level honesty means there is no personal PR department on full alert. In the end it is better to be lifted up than be put in your place. Reputations are fleeting, not insignificant, but to think we can fully manage is like watching a dog chase its tail.
Q. When I feel my reputation is threatened how do I react? Why? Is there a real concern I need to respond to or am I becoming like those Jesus opposed by being more concerned about my appearance?
Q. How would my reputation change if I stopped focusing on what other people think of me and instead focused on being the type of person Jesus asks of in Matthew 5-7?