Jim looked forward to his annual tradition…driving his little girl to her first day of 5th grade in a new school. Dressed in one of her new outfits to appease the shaky confidence that always accompanied her with change, our daughter, Jessica, climbed into Bertha.
Bertha was Jim’s fifteen year-old Dodge truck. Like Grandma, her skin was dulled with years of exposure and her upholstery worn from drivers sliding in and out under the steering wheel. Her radio mixed music with static, and her air conditioner labored to cool the cab to 72 degrees. But every morning she purred a welcome to those who relied on her for transportation.
One block from the school, Jessica broke the silence with an urgent shout, “Stop! Pull over.”
Jim did and jerked toward his daughter, “What’s the matter? What did you forget?”
Jessica stiff-armed Dad. Without a word, she gathered her books, opened Bertha’s door and stepped to the curb. Turning back to Dad and peering at him through her glasses, she smoothed her hair behind her ears and replied, “I’ll walk from here, Daddy. I have my reputation to protect.” She slammed the door shut, turned on her heel and walked away,
determined not to be seen with a parent bringing her to school, much less riding in a beat up truck.
Jim sat stunned, mouth agape. “What reputation? You’re only eleven years old.”
Everyone, even an eleven year-old, has a reputation because people draw conclusions from how we live out our beliefs and values in interactions and behavior. Reputation is what people think of us because of our attitude, actions, and words. These form the image they picture of us or the feelings that swell from within when they hear our name. Ultimately, reputation is what drives others to engage with us…or not.
God made us in His image and called us to build a reputation for holiness when He said, “You must be holy because I, the Lord your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2, NIV). That’s a tall order and not easy to do or sustain, as Scripture reminds us. The Israelites fell back on old habits and defiled God’s image by worshipping a golden idol. Pharisees tarnished God’s image with rigid laws that lost compassion in application, and the New Testament church struggled to remain holy when some believers combined paganism and sinful
behavior with Christian doctrine.
How does one build a strong reputation? Christ replied, “You must love the Lord Your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37, NLT)
So, I take a lesson from my daughter and ask, “Am I protecting my reputation as a Christian? How am I presenting to others Christ who lives in me? Am I just fitting in with the flow of the world, or living according to the two greatest commandments?”
A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank. (Proverbs 22:1, Message)