God will test us to see just how much we cherish our reputations.
Precious in God’s sight is the person whose character is above reproach . . . but those of us who belong to God have no rights when it comes to the matter of reputation. In fact, sometimes God will allow us to be slandered in order to sharpen our character.
A handful of years ago, in an attempt to discredit me, someone accused me of a deed I’d never even considered, much less done. The fact that the accusation was so ludicrous actually helped it to spread because people assumed there had to be at least a grain of truth in it—surely no one would make up something like that! I was devastated and humiliated. I felt the raised eyebrows and got wind of the disapproving comments. This incident was the last straw in a very difficult season during which I lost friends and experienced deep depression.
Several times, I tried to defend myself, which amounted to shouting into the roaring wind; my attempts were completely ineffective. Finally one morning, the Lord dealt with me point-blank: “You can defend yourself, or I can do it. Which is it going to be? You or Me?” For the next hour, as I flipped through my Bible, I “stumbled” across verse after verse about God’s role as our great Defender. I was reminded that Jesus “made himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7). If He didn’t defend Himself while being humiliated and ridiculed, surely I had no right to do so. With a feeling of great relief (defending oneself is exhausting!), I gave up the fight and simply went on about my business of loving God and loving people.
Ideally, our reputation will speak for itself—that is, our love for God will result in others knowing that we’re considerate, trustworthy, and so on. But even the most honorable person is sometimes slandered, and then his true colors will show. Often he’s faced with the choice between maintaining his good character even as his reputation is smeared across the pavement, or jumping to his own defense in spite of God’s directive to stand down.
Sometimes our comfort and strength come from simply knowing we’re pleasing to the Father, if to no one else. My story lacks a fairy-tale ending; I was never vindicated, and my accuser was never proven to be a liar. But here’s the clincher: it doesn’t matter anymore. My emotions are completely detached from the whole fiasco because it’s not my concern. My reputation is in God’s hands. He can do what He wants with it.
I leave you with a quote from A. W. Tozer: “Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other; but let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself.”