Your Reputation

Luke 7
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I hear a lot of Christians use the following phrases:

“I am in the world, but not of this world!”
“I’m just passing through!”
“I’m set apart for Christ!”
“I don’t associate myself with the enemy!”

We deserve a triumphant battle cry in the wake of victory.  We should be always overjoyed that Jesus has made a way for us to get to heaven.  We get to skip the consequences of our sins.

Then, not long after we’re saved, the isolationist attitude begins.  The church becomes a country club, a place to associate with and drink coffee and sing really obscure songs with repetitive phrasing. No one gets it, because no one on the outside has any idea what’s going on.  Frankly, we begin losing touch with outsiders.

And worse yet, we become militant about the “evil practices” of those not “cleansed by the blood of the lamb.” Take a step back and see how that sounds.  Evil practices?  If the Bible is not the letter of their conduct, it’s not going to appear that way.  It looks like normal behavior.  And cleansed by the blood?  People might think we’re bathing in the blood of livestock.

Right now, the Christian sub-culture is becoming more distant, irrelevant, and prudish by the day. Media buzz has us labeled as hyper-political, arrogant, culturally archaic, and producers of noise.

But does it matter?  We’re not of this world!  The enemy is rampant, and we should be set apart from everything this world is!

Luke 7 tells a different story, and it might be shocking and drive you to anger.  That’s a good thing.  Get angry.  And then start thinking about it. If this is offensive to you, it’s probably about you.  Once you get over it, I encourage you to take a minute and think.

Reputation matters.  What people think about you matters.

Your conduct should never be people-pleasing.  That’s not what I’m saying.  But how you’re perceived should be a very big deal to you.

People misconstrue Jesus’s reasoning for healing the centurion’s servant as seen in scripture.  Jesus states in verse 9 that He has “not found such great faith”. What is it about the man’s faith that enraptures Jesus?

The centurion loves his servant, which should be no surprise considering his approach to Jesus and the risk he takes asking such a controversial figure. The fact that he even bothers seeking help for his servant is a pretty big deal (v. 2).

But the centurion doesn’t come himself — he sends some servants to relay the speech, probably because he was on the clock.  But these servants start off speaking from their own heart, saying the man deserves it. (v. 4) He has a good standing among men.

Jesus takes off for the servant’s place, and on the way he’s approached by some more pals, again sent by the centurion.  Apparently the man is having second thoughts about Jesus being there because he believes he himself isn’t even worthy (v. 6). He describes how he has all this power, and he’s ashamed asking for help because he has all this authority.  He reeks of humility.

Finally, Jesus makes His call: the servant will be healed because he has “great faith”.  Is this faith the result of trusting Jesus could do it? Yes. (v. 7).  The centurion has full confidence in Jesus’ abilities.  But there is no question that the centurion’s character is considered — otherwise, the story isn’t really necessary.

The centurion loves his servant. His SERVANT.  Y’know, the guy he rules over. If you’re an affluent person (and if you have an iPhone or equivalent device, that’s you), take a minute to think about how much you love the scrubby people that work twice as hard as you and can’t afford your car payments. I don’t care if they are Christians or not.  That’s your influence.  Your attitude and what you say is a really big deal.

The centurion has a good standing.  Even though the man is relatively wealthy, the people around him love him enough to travel on his behalf and speak well of him.  If you sent one of your employees or co-workers out to represent you — and don’t pick a Christian one, for this case — what would they say? They might do the job, but under their breath they might say you’re wacky.  That’s not okay.

The centurion is humble.  He doesn’t have to exert his authority.  He is loved, because he serves the people around him.  He doesn’t just say, “I’ll pray for you” or put up Christian-themed posts on Facebook to spread his reputation and renown and to appear good.  He just loves people. That’s it.

We are no better than the Pharisees that encircled the adulterous woman if we bare our teeth all the time and become militant, political Christians. In fact, militant and political define the Pharisees as shown in the Bible you read. These characteristics do nothing for the kingdom of heaven other than polarize and incite prejudice. If you think this is you, fix it.

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