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Do you have a reputation? What is it, and where did it come from? Is it accurate? What do you think about it?
Asking if I have a reputation is akin to asking me if I have a name. Of course I have a reputation! Everyone does. I heard it put this way: your reputation is what others think of you, but your character is what God knows to be true about you. You see, a reputation can be manipulated and shaped. I can do certain things in public to cause people to have a certain opinion of me. Now, whether that perception is true to reality is another matter.
We have all seen it. We have all seen a person fall from grace; meaning, they had a certain reputation in public, but what they were doing behind proverbial closed doors was very different. Their reputation was a facade, masking the reality.
Now, it must be said, we all act and behave in certain ways in public that we may not always follow when we are in private. There are certain protocols for polite society. There is decorum and certain morés that we follow. This is understandable and is of a different sort from our current topic.
What we are speaking of is when a person has fabricated an image to deceive others, to hide their true nature. A person, for instance, who parades himself as a philanthropist and a devout religious man, but who is a swindler, con and cheat in reality. Reputation is not always accurate.
This being said, we will assume most people are not intentionally deceiving people to cover up crimes. Even still, reputation can be a tricky thing. Sometimes we use it as a judging tool against others. Sometimes we use it to be dismissive of another human being. We use it to categorize people into our preconceived pigeonholes and stereotypes. We deem a person worthy of our time and attention, or not, because of their reputation; or, even more, our so-called reputation.
I am not saying reputations are bad things in general. I think it is perfectly fine for a person to strive for a good, upstanding reputation; as long as the person is not masking their true identity.
However, I do think allowance should be made, call it grace or civility, for reputations to change. A person may start life in a rather haphazard or foolish way. They may make mistakes and thus gain a poor reputation. But, what if that person turns it around. What if that person changes and betters themselves? What if that person is transformed by the gospel of Christ? What reputation should we hold them to? Which reputation would we want to be held to?
The woman at the well (in John 4, read her account HERE) had a reputation. We often times say it that way, don’t we, to imply a person from the wrong side of tracks; we will say, You know he/she has a reputation. This almost, if not always, means a bad one. Well, the woman that day Jesus encountered in the hot scorching Middle-eastern sun had a reputation . . . and it was a bad one!
She, undoubtedly, would have been ridiculed by her neighbors. She would have been shunned by her family. She would have been viewed as a dead-end. She was thought of as debased and immoral, no redeeming quality or hope of change. But then, she encountered this Jewish man from a little town called Nazareth, who claimed to be far more than that. She encountered God at the well. Oh, he knew of her reputation. He knew of her character as well. He knew all those secret things, whether good or bad, that she hid in her heart and mind. He knew her completely, perfectly. And he came to that well that day just for her. He came that day to tell her the good news (the gospel) that she could be transformed, changed, redeemed, if she would only believe. In short, she could have a new reputation. But even more, a new life, a new soul, a new hope.
The apostle Paul had a reputation. Before his conversion to Christ, he was known as Saul, Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a religiously devout man. He was well-learned in the Torah. He was the top of his class; an intellectual, passionate for his God and country. A glowing reputation no doubt.
But, he had another reputation too. Amongst Christians, his reputation was one of a tyrant. He was one who persecuted them for their faith in Christ. He would have them arrested, perhaps beaten or worse. He was their scourge, the bane of their existence. He was well-known. His reputation preceded him wherever he went. He was feared and loathed.
Then, one day as he was traveling to Damascus to persecute believers there, he met the same man the woman at the well had met. At about the same time of day, a bright, intense light appeared, knocking him and his companions from their horses. Then, Saul heard a voice speaking to him, the voice of Christ.
Because of this experience, not only did Saul’s name change to Paul, he received a new reputation as well. The reputation of Christian, apostle, missionary, leader and, eventually, martyr for the sake of Christ.
What is my reputation? What is your reputation? As the woman at the well and Paul discovered, the more important question is this: what is Jesus’ reputation? His reputation can trump yours. It has the power to transform, not only your reputation, but even more importantly, you.
His reputation and character match. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is Messiah, Savior, Son of the Living God.
He transformed the woman at the well. He changed Paul. He changed me. What about you?