Our Reputation Matters
“But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, ‘Let those men go.’ And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, ‘The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.’ But Paul said to them, ‘They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”
– Acts 16:35-37
The missionary team of Paul and Silas had just encountered a young, tormented, slave girl in Philippi who “had a spirit of divination”, or literally a “python spirit” (Acts 16:16 ESV). In the name of Jesus, Paul exorcised the evil spirit from the young girl which upset her owners as they had been making much profit off her ability to tell fortunes through this demonic presence. Her owners drummed up false charges against Paul and Silas and reported them to the magistrates of the city for the crimes of promoting an illegal religion and disturbing the peace (Acts 16:20-21). The chief magistrates not only arrested Paul and Silas but also humiliated them by publicly beating them with rods and advocating for the crowd to join in. After their public flogging, the missionaries were thrown into a Philippian jail and held in shackles (Acts 16:22-24).
The next day, after an interesting night of God-ordained earthquakes and salvations, the chief magistrates sent a discreet and confidential message to the prison guard that Paul and Silas were to be set free. At this point in the story, we expected to read of Paul and Silas celebrating their freedom and high-tailing it out of Philippi before the sun sets. Instead, they decide to stay! “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out” (Acts 16:37).
Paul demanded a public apology because he had been publicly declared a criminal. What in the world, Paul? Here is your chance for freedom and an opportunity to get on to the next missionary stop. It seemed kind of petty for Paul to refuse freedom for himself and Silas until he got a public apology; however his reason for staying was far from petty. Paul stayed because of his reputation mattered. Paul did not want his reputation to be an obstacle that would impede the spread of the gospel or the growth of the Philippi church. Paul’s concern was not for himself, but for the gospel and the church.
In this unprecedented time that we are living, our reputation matters as much now as Paul’s reputation did in the first century. People will evaluate the worthiness of our Gospel message based upon our reputations as people of character. If we have poor reputations, the Gospel message and hence the beauty of our Savior will be tainted. If our reputation does not match our message, many will turn a deaf ear to the Gospel. Arrogance, gossip, hypocrisy, and a quick temper damage our testimonies and do not reflect the character of Jesus.
Today the internet has provided connectivity to other people at a speed and geographical reach that has never been seen before. What a blessing and a curse this can be to our reputation! Technology can be used to take the Gospel to the ends of the Earth in seconds, but it can also pollute the reputation of that Gospel messenger just as quickly.
I pray that through this pandemic we are navigating and through the divisiveness that has infected our country right now, we, as Gospel believers, would be quick to read and slow to type on social media; quick to understand and slow to respond with those we disagree. Our online language must not be any different than our Sunday morning language. Our actions at our kids’ sporting events must match our actions at our local church events. Our love for Christ should overflow in love for others. Oh that we would, as reflections of Jesus, treat all who we come in contact with, whether online or in-person, with honor, exemplifying self-control while emulating compassion and understanding, and counting others as more important than ourselves for the sake of gaining a listener to the message of the Gospel. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1). For the sake of the Gospel, our reputation matters.
Pray: Father God, You have given us the precious gift of salvation in Your Son Jesus Christ. Please, by your Spirit, increase our desire to reflect Him more clearly in our actions and words. Father, please convict us graciously and mercifully when our flesh is causing us to pollute our reputation as followers of Christ. Give us the power to repent for Your glory and for the joy of gaining an audience to share the gospel. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Sunday School Teacher, Baptist Village Pastor/Preacher
First Baptist Broken Arrow