Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Importance of Reputation (Acts)

... Then we get to Jerusalem. It is a sign of Paul’s bad reputation that he gets in trouble for doing something he didn’t do, but for something that to the zealous of Jerusalem thought sounded like something he would do. He is accused of bringing a non-Jew into the temple (21:29). To be honest, it is actually something we can imagine Paul doing, given his theology. But the incident shows how you can get in trouble as much or more because of your reputation than for who you actually are or what you actually do.

On one level, having a good reputation does seem a somewhat superficial matter. What does it matter what other people think of you? Isn’t the most important thing that you actually are a person of virtue, whether other people think well of you or not?

So why is it that Proverbs 22:1 says that, “A good name is more desirable than great riches”? First, Proverbs presumes that the good name is deserved. Proverbs is not talking about an inaccurate reputation but a good reputation that flows from actually being a virtuous person.

Yet there are consequences to having a bad reputation even when it is undeserved. As we see with Paul, people will fill in the blanks by assuming the worst of us if we have a bad reputation to them. By the same token, people will fill in the blanks with good thoughts if we have a good reputation with them. There is unfortunately a lot of truth in the saying that, “Perception is reality,” because people will act toward us according to what they think about us, not necessarily because of who we really are or what our true motives are.

We cannot control what others think of us, and our priority should be on actually being people of virtue—rather than being hypocrites who only look virtuous. Nevertheless, the Bible also shows some concern for how we look to others, not least because we are witnesses to Christ. How we look is not the most important thing, but it is not insignificant either.

There is also a warning to us as those who do the looking too. It is human nature to jump to conclusions. It is human nature to assume all the worst of our enemies and assume the best of our friends. We tend to believe every tawdry email or sound bite about the president or politician we don’t like. Yet we are just as quick to cry foul at the negative injustices the other channel promotes about our candidates and favorites.

Those with the heart of Christ will love their enemy and not be so quick to believe every negative word about an opponent. It will make itself be fair-minded. It will get the story straight from the horse’s mouth rather than believing every rumor. It will be more interested in the truth than the scintillating...


Susan Moore said...

Yes, Amen! I've come to the conclusion over the last 2.5 years that people with think what they desire to think -who knows what winds move them.
And yet the risen King who is our Lord God loves us mercilessly and is ready with open arms to greet us on the real Day of Judgment.
Praise God!

Susan Moore said...

Perhaps in regards to the process of renewing one’s mind from judging others to loving others, the order of that process of renewal goes like this (and I feel confident in speaking about this because I have had so much practice at both judging and having my mind be renewed! The image of a teeter-totter comes to mind; the goal is a perfect horizontal balance between self and others that is suspended by our vertical relationship with Christ in Christ.):
1. Agree in one’s own mind to suspend judgment of others. Assume everyone is doing the best they know how. When we make a decision, even a bad one, that decision makes sense to us at the time we make it, right? That is true for all people everywhere. We must take everyone at face value, and not assume anything about that person’s desires or motives. Although it would be best to do this in prayer, when we are being judgmental we, too, think our choice to be judgmental is a good choice -it makes sense to us- even though our Christ tells us it is a very bad decision to make.
2. Remember that we are each different, and rejoice in that. The hardest thing I’ve had to learn in life it that not everyone thinks like I think. God loves variety and has made each soul unique. Whether we are ‘saved’ or not, He sees us, hears us, and knows us each by name. He loves each of us and all of us because of who we are; His created beings.
3. Give the benefit of the doubt if at all possible. And it is possible to do this only when we remember that we each come out of the womb as a thoroughly stinking being who is fallen from grace. And yet He loves us, anyway, in spite of who we are.
4. Avoid mob mentality. Jesus is always the narrow path and the narrow gate. Go away to a quiet place (in one’s mind) and pray.
5. Ask for His forgiveness for having become judgmental, again. And forgive the others. Remember that He is the risen King who came to us, suffered for us, and died for us; so that we may live forever with Him, and live with Him as heirs to His throne. Thank Him. Praise Him!
6. Request His love to overwhelm one’s vessel and spill onto all others. Ask Him to reveal Himself to others through one’s self. When this sacrificial loving of others occurs, it is a Spiritual event; never an acts of works. It is evidence that one’s mind has been renewed in Christ, and that forgiveness has occurred. We can rest, then, secure in that knowledge. We cannot white knuckle our stinking human nature into loving others, particularly our ‘enemies’. Only God can do that, because only in Him are all things possible.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ken, it is idealistic to think that humans are capable of "not judging"? Judging is part of how we define social norms, values, and identity.

Last night's play, "The Crucible", an IWU theatre production, painted that fact vividly. It was about the hysteria over "witches" in the Founding generation. Strict rules applied to their communities, and when these rules were broken, then, people were labeled. But, the phenomena of defending ourselves when we fear judgment, when the judgement is not rationally appraised does not bring about virtue "within the camp". But, it does bring about overzealous zeal to protect our turf and defend our identities. This is quite normal.

One's reputation can be impuged by having difference that others don't like for whatever reason. Isn't it best to learn to accept the real world and how to live in it.

Virtue is how the Church frames their ideals. Not everyone will agree about what is virtuous, either. Some might think that helping the poor might enable bad habits, while others might look aghast at the "cold-heartedness" of turning people away who do not want to work. Character is simliar to reputation, as it defines the personality and actions of a particular person. Although actions can be judged, isn't it just as likely that inaction would be virtuous? Yes, in some instances, it is. Inaction might be judged as unvirtuous, but it isn't necessarily. It can be virtuous to allow people to choose differently than we ourselves might. Controlling others is not virtuous. One has to understand motive to know whether a person is chooosing to resist for a virtuous reason. And no one can know those reasons unless they engage the person about a particular issue.

Manipulation is not virtuous. And some can resort to those methods to get humans to act. Fear and intimidation was not how a "free society" should "work".