I want people to like me. Do you want people to like you? There are some out there, I am sure, who revel in causing discord and tensions on various topics, but even in polarizing people because of their beliefs or convictions I would argue that such people find comfort in groups of like minded peers. It is normal interpersonal relation skills to find matters of common interest upon meeting a new person, and we feel good about ourselves when other people praise us and agree with us.
The Bible has some interesting things to say about the topic, however. Firstly, it does say that our responsibility as believers is to live at peace with all men – so much as it depends on us.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
– Rom 12.18
We are instructed to suffer the offense, turn the other cheek and go out of our way to make sure that no one has any offense against us and that we do everything in our power to be at peace with everyone.
The Bible also says that it is a good thing to have a good reputation:
“A good name is to be more desired than great wealth,
Favor is better than silver and gold.”
– Prov 22.1
“A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.”
– Ecc 7.1
Not only is it good to have a good reputation, Scripture commands us to keep our actions pure so that we earn a good reputation – even among non believers – and it is a requirement to serve in the Church:
“Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
– 1 Peter 2.12
“An overseer, then, must be above reproach…And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
– 1 Tim 3.2, 7
But yet, even amidst all of these commandments and teachings, Jesus throws in this extremely difficult and convicting statement:
“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”
– Luke 6.26
Woe to you when all men speak well of you. Is this not the exact opposite of everything else we just examined? That we should strive to have good reputations, that we should keep our behavior excellent, that we must have a good reputation in order to serve in the Church? But yet it is a pitiable and condemnable offense when all men speak well of us?
This condemnation was thrown in the midst of a list of woes such as being rich, being well fed, being without care in the world. And thus we can understand by context what Jesus means. There is a way to be respected and spoken well of that is God-honoring and there is a way to be respected and spoken well of that is not. The former is by living our lives in complete submission to the plans and commandments of God in such a way that non-believers are confused and drawn to ask us about our hope (1 Peter 3.15). The latter is to live in such a way that we are fundamentally chameleons, we are nice and palatable to everyone and ruffle no feathers but do good deeds of which everyone approves. In short, the former makes his home in eternity with God and the latter makes his home here on the Earth. He is fat, happy and comfortable and does enough humanitarian good that people think he’s a really great guy.
This is a pitiable position in which to be! So much so that Jesus bemoans such a one and says that this is the best it will ever be for such a one.
Where is your home? On what foundation are you establishing your reputation? Do all men speak well of you because you are helping to feed the starving children and helping all men to feel good about themselves? Or do all men speak well of you because they can find in you no deceit and you are living for another world? Are you treasures here on this Earth and are you giving to (or personally running) charities that help the under privileged and save the planet and animals? Or are your treasures in Heaven and you are living sacrificially to live above reproach and make sure that the Gospel is boldly proclaimed in all lands?
If all men can speak well of us apart from our position on the Gospel, we are in league with the false prophets who lead people astray from God and into eternal destruction with the Devil. Let us strive to be more than just do-gooders who make no eternal impact, but let us store up our treasures in Heaven and live in such a way that people can find in us no fault, but yet are confused about our convictions and passions to such an extent that they ask us about the source of our hope. If we hope in finding world peace, if we hope in financial security and generosity, if we hope in those things which would make all benevolent and well intentioned people feel good about themselves, then our end game is too small. Yes, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked are applaudable goals. But unless we seek their eternal security in Christ, we have done them no good.
Let’s be like Jesus. Let’s have a good, but non-understandable reputation, such that all men cannot simply speak good about us, but such that all men would be drawn to Christ.