Something that has bothered me recently, mostly around the Moore political scandal, is this idea that reputation is everything, that we have to protect this guy’s reputation, that our first concern should be defending his alleged innocence.
Reputation, reputation, reputation.
The thing is, when I became a Christian I gave up my right to “my” reputation. I really mean that. While it’s quite lovely to have people think highly of you, it shouldn’t be what motivates us. Our reputation can become an idolatrous thing, where what matters to us is our personal social standing and status, rather than serving the Lord.
Our Lord didn’t have a “reputation” to preserve. The first time he preached, in his hometown no less, he had to slip off because people were trying to throw him off a cliff. He was accused of being crazy, of having a demon. Our Lord and Savior was born in a manger, pursued by the authorities, falsely accused, and eventually executed. So much for reputation and social status. Some people wanted Him to be King but He rode in on a donkey, humble, unconcerned about social status and reputation.
When Judge Moore decided to make Christ his identity, Christian values his political platform, he changed the whole ball game. He is now wearing a uniform, Christ’s uniform, and the stakes are much higher. When people look at him, they aren’t looking at the Republican party, they are looking at evangelicals, at Jesus Christ, and at the church.
James 3:1 weighs heavy on me here at the bottom of the food chain in Hicksville. “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” So to go into politics, to have a high-profile identity built around Christian values would terrify me. If I fell or failed in some way, it wouldn’t just be about me at all, it would now be about driving people away from faith and misrepresenting Christ. I imagine that is a weight pastors feel sometimes, or the good ones anyway.
When I became a Christian I gave up my right to “my” reputation. That can be a tough one, but it’s true, necessary, vital to our faith. It’s been tested too, my committment to those values has been tried, sure enough on a few occasions I have been falsely accused, maligned a few times, forced to let go of my thirst for justice, for revenge, for fairness. Fairness screams at me to this day, that sense that, “this is so unfair.” So, worse than just letting go of anger, injustice, we really have to come to a place of having some compassion for those who falsely accuse us, too. “Love your enemies,” He meant that one too.
I am not a saint, so it’s been a process. I’m just as likely as anyone else to sit there with smoke coming out of my ears, hissing and spitting sarcasm, angry about the price I now have to pay for someone else’s stupidity, their lies, their incompetency. But I’ve done it enough times now to understand what the Lord was teaching, what He has called us to, the wisdom behind it.
My husband bless his heart, in the midst of one of those trials I was lamenting over, once quipped, “what reputation?” I really appreciated those words, they made me laugh, they called me back away from pride, away from anxiety, away from fear. I am not a fancy member of the rich and famous, pursued by paparazzi. I am not likely to wind up on CNN. Did you know, we sometimes forget that? We do, we’re so inundated by mediated reality, we sometimes fear everyone is talking about us like we’re celebrities or something. It doesn’t occur to us that most people have their own lives, their own struggles, and aren’t even thinking about us at all. It’s good to be a nobody, sometimes.
I’ve had some good struggles, some major injustices inflicted on me a few times, some people who flat-out lied in some deeply hurtful ways, so I get it. I’m not going to tell ALL my secrets, but I had to endure a couple of medication investigations, missing meds, and the people who took them pointing fingers at me. I couldn’t work, didn’t get paid, and had to just wait it out, feeling totally helpless, powerless. Also, really angry because it was my word against theirs and my word should have carried more weight, but it didn’t. All’s well that ends well I suppose, because they eventually got caught.
Twice now I got roped into a couple of theft investigations. One woman with some memory loss issues misplaced her jewelry. I know she misplaced it because it was eventually found, but not until weeks had passed, not until accusations were made. More lost wages, more having to just wait it out, completely powerless.
I’ve tangled with the system a few times too, child protective services and the school district mostly. Kind of funny, my youngest just turned 18 and my first thought was, hallelujah, I’ll never have to deal with those people again! Four times now they tried to charge me with abuse of some sort, and four times I’ve had to spend months fighting it before having it thrown out. I kid you not, the last time I simply drowned a cell phone in a cup of coffee. These days that’s actually called destruction of personal property and assault, or at least it is if you’ve ticked off the wrong people.
It’s not so easy to surrender pride and to try to be gracious towards such people. I get that, but it’s still what we are called to.
I really don’t care all that much about Alabama politics or Judge Moore’s guilt or innocence, but I sure do care about Christian values, the real ones, and about what we are teaching by our behavior in the public square and our response to the injustices we encounter. Or, our response when truth about who we are is revealed. I also care about victims of abuse and the messages we are sending by our response.
We need to think about what it means to be “angry about the price I now have to pay for someone else’s stupidity,” when we are claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ who paid the ultimate price for us….. on behalf of our own stupidity. That really is the message of the cross, the message of grace and redemption, and if we have truly received it ourselves, we’ll find a way to extend it to others, no matter what it costs us.