This weekend, I witnessed one of my closest friends get engaged to a wonderful girl. It’s a rare moment where God’s direction in someone’s life is so apparent, and it was pretty incredible to be able to witness it with them. I know this girl somewhat, and I’m sure my friend has told her many a story about me and our friend group over the couple of years they’ve been dating. During the engagement party, I overheard her describing her new fiancé’s friends to her own friends, who didn’t know us at all. When she got to me, I heard the following.
“Townsend is the crazy friend.”
When I graduated college, a friend of mine told me after the ceremony, “Townsend, you’re the guy that made me feel like I was in college.” I took it as a colossal compliment, and most of you out there are now probably a little wary of me. I promise I never did anything that bad, but the fraternities did learn they couldn’t serenade the girl’s dorms without water balloons raining from the skies. Or hang pictures of Miss Ouachita Pageant candidates in the student center without a few getting replaced by a John Candy or Geraldo Riviera headshot. Good times.
I’m perfectly fine with being the one with a few screws loose for the sake of fun. But it got me thinking about labels and what we’re known for. How do our reputations relate to our spiritual lives?
I realize I’m wading into some murky waters. Ultimately, what people think of us shouldn’t be an issue with which we consume ourselves. But suppose my brand of crazy included stuff like partying every weekend or routinely getting called into the Dean’s office (just once, and it wasn’t even my fault). People wouldn’t be so hot to the idea of me having a heart for God because every indication on the outside would say I don’t.
A particularly convicting verse is Ecclesiastes 10:1. It states, “As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.” It doesn’t particularly matter if you’ve had an honorable reputation for a long time, even a small amount of stupidity can ruin it. We see it all too often with pastors and spiritual leaders in our society. They can lead churches, write books, and be looked to as moral pillars for years upon years. One tiny slipup in gambling or adultery and their reputations, careers and family are in shambles. It doesn’t take much.
Keeping your name out of the mud is given a lot more weight than I expected to find. Proverbs 22:1 states, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” Meanwhile, 1 Peter 2:12 is pretty specific about your actions representing God. “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
As is the case with many of our earthly desires, what determines whether they are right or wrong is our motivation. If we want to have a good name so people think better of us, then we’re missing the point. We should strive to have an upstanding reputation because, as Christians, we have a responsibility to represent God well. People will never say, “Look at him, he just reflects the Lord in everything he does” because no one can—no one is perfect. What they will say is, “He’s the friend who will drop everything to help you when you need it” or “She’s the most encouraging friend I’ve ever had.” Have your reputation be something God can use to further the Kingdom.
Hopefully they won’t say, “He’s the friend who set off a firework on the roof of a library.” I’m still picking the flies out of my perfume.