Reputation Matters


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, 1 Kings 13:1-10, Philippians 1:1-11, Mark 15:40-47

Sometime in our lives, most of us have had the unfortunate experience of having to send a meal back to the restaurant kitchen. Maybe it’s under- or over-cooked, or not prepared the way we asked, or just plain bad. There’s nothing wrong with expecting what you’ve paid for and letting a business know when you didn’t get it. An apology is the minimum expectation for good customer service. Many times, to show they value your patronage, the manager comps part or all of the meal, or offers a discount for your next visit. How they handle the complaint often determines whether a customer returns in the future.

Is it also possible the seriousness of your complaint might be weighed against your insistence on getting something for free? Complaint scams for free food are not unheard of. Would you consider refusing the compensation to drive your point home?

When the Lord sent a prophet to tell King Jeroboam to stop building temples to idols, Jeroboam wanted to thank the man for interceding on his behalf. Jeroboam invited the prophet to his home for a meal and a gift. The prophet said he had received these instructions from God: “You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.”

Accepting a meal or a gift, no matter how innocently, might have compromised the prophet’s integrity. In many businesses, especially non-profits, employees are advised to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Reputation has a real impact on how well we are trusted to conduct our personal and professional lives.

If we want to be taken seriously about our faith – especially by people who are looking for reasons to discredit us – we might also want to consider avoiding behavior that appears hypocritical or self-serving. That includes things like holding ourselves and our representatives to (minimally) the same standards as everyone else. For example, if we gleefully condemn and deride our political opponents for their perceived sins, yet make excuses or preach forgiveness when our political allies do as bad or worse, we can’t pretend our primary concern is justice. It also includes being involved in justice issues which don’t benefit us directly, or even cost us.

A reputation is far easier to keep than it is to restore. And when we claim to act on behalf of or as followers of Christ, it’s not just our own reputation on the line. Let’s be who we say we are.

Comfort: Christ shows us the way of integrity. 

Challenge: Try to be vigilant about your own hypocrisy and motives.

Prayer: God of Truth, help me live in the light. Amen. 

Discussion: Reputation can get tangled up with seeking worldly approval. How and why do we keep them separate?

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