Reputation: the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something
I have a friend named Reputation. Reputation makes me feel good about myself. He tells me that others like me. Reputation is fond of me. He only sees my best qualities, and he only says positive things about me to everyone else. He campaigns for me, and encourages others to pat me on the back. Reputation enjoys reminding me that I have something to offer God. He is always telling me that God should be proud to have someone like me in his service. I like Reputation. He’s a good guy to hang out with. He and I have a symbiotic relationship. I take good care of him, and he takes good care of me. If I groom him just right, keep him properly bathed, polished, trimmed, and combed, he sings for me the songs I like to hear and tells the stories about me others like to believe.
I’m not the first person to be good friends with Reputation. In fact, Reputation gets around. He has a “reputation” if you know what I mean. The disciple Matthew tells the story of one of Reputation’s friends, a wealthy and pious young man who wanted to follow Jesus. Or at least, this is what he said he wanted.
“Now someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.” (Matthew 19:16–22, NET)
Reputation lied to this young man. He told him that he had created righteousness and security for himself. He told the kid that Jesus would take one look at his accomplishments and get all mushy, but Reputation is a liar, and he is no friend of Jesus. Reputation never sang for Jesus when others called him a blasphemer. He never told stories about the good guy Jesus who sat at the side of well and spoke with a whore. Reputation abandoned Jesus because Jesus didn’t take the time to carefully groom and spoil him. Reputation is not just a liar, he is a narcissist demanding he get more attention than is his right to claim.
Reputation never told me how easily he can abandon me. He’s never told me that he is just a product of cultural expectations and a figment of our collective imaginations. He’ll never admit that he is all smoke and mirrors – the ultimate carnival sideshow freak.
The good news? Jesus cuts through Reputation’s BS and asks the only question that matters. Have I come to Jesus so he can praise me, or have I come to make him the central focus of my life? Reputation has told me that life is about me and the image and security I create for myself. My friend Reputation is a liar.