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Christian Living

Ruin Your Reputation

Photo by Dioboss via Flickr (Creative Commons)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Ephesians 5:8-13

There’s a lot of reputation management going on in the church today. Scornful lips espouse warnings about “the appearance of evil” and it’s kissing cousin, “be careful who you associate with.

When I was in Bible college I remember some of this being taught in our Student Life Guide. These community preferences defined social life at Moody Bible Institute… and for many, set the course of their social life going forward.

  • You aren’t allowed in bars, because people drink alcohol there.
  • A male student can’t go to the home of a female adult alone. (And visa versa)
  • You can’t go see movies, because how will people know you are going to the PG movie when Rated-R movies are being shown?
  • You can’t work somewhere in which alcohol is sold.

[In fairness, these were community rules. Students willfully chose the school in full knowledge of the rules. No one at MBI said they were Biblical rules– but the message was clear. This is how Christians behave.]

Two problems with reputation management:

  1. Our Lord had a horrible reputation. He hung out with low-life’s like tax collectors and prostitutes.
  2. Jesus didn’t respond too kindly to religious people and their reputation rules.

Ruin your reputation

I love this passage from Paul’s letter to Ephesus. Ephesus was the Las Vegas of its day. A tourist town. It’s a city with a big harbor and lots of sailors. Consequently, it was a city with a whole slew of brothels and a temple to the fertility goddess Diana.

Ephesians knew dark places. And for the most part, the church in Ephesus was filled with people who knew the dark places all too well.

If the church were to re-write verses 8-13 it would go something like this:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, so don’t go to those places. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed to darkness is overcome by darkness—and everything that is illuminated by darkness dies.

Striking difference, eh?

That’s the difference between having a religious reputation and having a Christ-like reputation!

Paul’s command was simple: Go to dark places. Seek them out. Even the ones from your past. And bring light.

See, going to dark places and seeing “bad things” doesn’t mean that you have to be a part of it. To the contrary, you can find those in darkness and bring the light of new life!

As believers, it’s our job to go to dark places and bring light. A life pleasing to Jesus isn’t concerned about reputation. Often times, it’s ruthlessly ruining your reputation for the purpose of introducing grace, forgiveness, and hope to the darkest places you know.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

5 replies on “Ruin Your Reputation”

Love this post Adam. This is a message I need to hear over and over. Not because I don’t agree with it, but it is easy to be loved so much by the church that you need to be intentional about your time loving all your neighbors. Speak it bro.

It’s funny that we are so concerned with maintaining a ‘good reputation’, but really the only people who care are other Christians. It seems true that the only way we can bring light into the darkness is by being IN the darkness. I guess some could argue that avoiding dark places IS being a good witness, but that sounds a lot like hiding our light under a bowl.

Totally agreed! The implication is always that you might get tainted by the sinful lifestyle or that you might fall into it yourself. Now, I have actually seen this happen, that those going into dark places end up preferring it! But, I believe that the Gospel speaks more to the strength of our faith in Christ. We have to believe that our testimony in and through our actions is stronger than anything our social and peer forces can throw at us.

Good post, Adam. Though I don’t go in frequently, there have been a few times where “what are YOU doing here?” has been asked in a bar or other establishment where beverages are offered…now I know how to respond even more in love.

In fact there are some local churches that have actually met IN A BAR, and the public’s reaction has been very positive.

You clearly identified the dichotomy between those who hold on to their reputations as an extension of their own manicured self-image versus those who reach beyond it to their neighbors and neighborhoods for the purpose of learning, listening and illuminating His love. Those bible schools who are still enforcing their own scornful traditions are wrecking havoc when they demand students and staff conform to their version of ‘churched’ reputations going so far as to say the New Testament is written for believers and not unbelievers. In all fairness, Moody Graduate School is not the same as Moody Church. Such leaders are building their utopian social communities by coercing and manipulating the mandated norms by which students and staff will be measured.

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