I’ve heard it said that we should guard our reputation because in the end, it’s all we have. One wrong move and our reputation could be destroyed. But in some ways, Christians are taught to disregard reputation. We are told that we will be hated and persecuted, and that we should stand up for truth and not be ashamed of it.
The truth is that God’s Word tells us that we should guard our reputations and that reputation matters. Our reputation has the power to bring people to Christ or to destroy our ministry. It is powerful and vital to our Christian witness.
Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold. – Proverbs 22:1 (NLT)
Reputation matters because it’s what tells the world that we are indeed trustworthy. If a business owner had a reputation for lying and cheating, would you do business with him? Probably not. In the same way, the world uses our reputation as believers to prove our trustworthiness. If we are known as hypocrites and liars, will anyone want to come to Jesus?
We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. – 2 Corinthians 6:3 (NLT)
It breaks my heart when I see entire ministries go under because of sin and hypocrisy. In the world’s eyes, it’s just one more reason not to trust the church. In his letter to young Timothy, Paul writes the following:
But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. – 1 Timothy 6:11-14 (NLT)
Yes, the Bible says that the world will hate us. Yes, it’s true that we will undoubtedly endure persecution and suffering because of our faith. But I have to wonder if many of us use this as an excuse not to care about how the world perceives us. (I know that I certainly have in the past.)
When it comes to our Christian ministry, reputation matters.
We are called to care about our reputation, and we are called to do our best to live in peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18) Why? Because reputation matters when it comes to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world.
I recently wrote a blog post called Reputation: Learning to Let Go. I know firsthand what it’s like to have a shattered reputation. But what I learned through the process is that God cares about our reputation. I could have just stopped caring about how others viewed me, but instead I surrendered my reputation to God so that He could bring me restoration.
I knew that in the end, my Christian witness would be destroyed if I didn’t allow Him to bring restoration to my reputation. In order for that to happen, I had to surrender my life back to Him and begin living in a way that would bring Him glory and honor. I had to stop being a hypocrite and start practicing what I was preaching.
When we claim Christianity but continue to live in sin, we not only destroy our own reputations, we destroy God’s. We are God’s children. We represent Him and His love to the world. So when we live as unholy and selfish people, we misrepresent our heavenly Father. How can we preach about a God who changes lives when our lives look no different?
So even though we know that the world will hate us, that shouldn’t stop us from guarding our reputation.
The goal is to live a life worthy of the Gospel message – to live in such a way that the world can’t find any fault – and to live a life that brings honor and glory to God.