Earning and maintaining a good reputation is important for many reasons. For example, a good reputation gives us credibility. A good reputation can offer us more opportunities for jobs, financial credit, business and personal relationships, and more. In contrast, a bad reputation can often slam the door in our face to many opportunities. Simply put, reputation can either make or break you.
King Solomon says it like this:
“A good name is better than precious ointment.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1)
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” (Proverbs 22:1)
It has been said that “it takes a liftetime to build a reputation, but only one mistake to ruin it.”
Again from the wisdom of Solomon:
“Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and causes it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1)
Notice, the above verse says that it just takes a “little” folly to ruin the reputation of a wise and honorable person.
The Bible’s Third Epistle of John (or John III) is a brief letter discussing three different individuals. The letter consists of only 14 verses, but it illustrates volumes about the importance of reputation.
The Apostle John begins this letter by addressing it to the “beloved Gaius.”
Who was Gaius?
–He was a Corinthian who was baptized by Paul (I Corinthians 1:14)
–He accompanied Paul during parts of his missionary trips. (Acts 20:4)
–During a commotion about false idols in the city of Ephesus, Gaius was apprehended and persecuted for his faith in Christ. (Acts 19:29)
–He hosted hosted both Paul and the church in his home. (Romans 16:23)
In verses 1-8, John says in his letter that he rejoices greatly to hear that Gaius walks in the truth. This means Gaius was not just a Christian in name only, but in deed. He didn’t just do the talk, he did the walk too. He practiced what he believed. John says Gaius is faithful in doing good for both Christians and non-Christians. John doesn’t give details, but evidently, Gaius provided help for others. Maybe he provided food, money, and lodging (since we know he did host Paul and the church). John says all these people that Gaius helped have borne witness of Gaius’s love for the church.
John says “we therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.” John is suggesting that all Christians should do like Gaius, and that by doing so, would “become fellow workers for the truth.”
So, Gaius is praised for his dedication to the church, for helping others, for showing the love of God, for doing the walk and not just the talk.
As Christians, I should ask myself, would John rejoice if he heard how I lived? Do I practice living my life by imitating Christ, or am I a Christian in name-only?
In stark contrast to Gaius is Diotrephes. John says (in verses 9-11) that Diotrephes loves to have the preeminence, that he would not receive the Apostle John and certain other Christians, forbidding other church members from receiving them, and throwing them out if they did. John says he will remember the deeds of Diotrephes, which include “prating against them with malicious words.”
–Diotrephes wanted to be the boss of everyone else, but this attitude was contrary to what Jesus taught.
“…for whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28) See also: Philippians 2:2-5; Romans 15:1-3; Matthew 20:25-28)
–Diotrephes spoke maliciously of the Apostle John in order to persuade others to rally for him and his agenda instead of the gospel of Christ that John preached. Diotrephes was evidently jealous of John, which is why he forbid his church members from showing hospitality to John.
Again, Diotrephes may have called himself a Christian, but his actions spoke otherwise because the scriptures say, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Whether we realize it or not, every one of us has a reputation for how we talk and act. If you love to talk about sports, you will most likely have a reputation for knowing about sports (which can be a good thing). In the same token, if you love to gossip, you will have a reputation for that as well. As Christians, we should make it our goal to gain a reputation for speaking about things that are wholesome, edifying, and encouraging.
“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8)
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:6)
–Diotrephes refused to show hospitality to the Apostle John and forbid his church members from doing the same. However, the scriptures teach that Christians should open their homes and churches to others.
“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2)
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
In verse 12 of John III, the Apostle John only has one thing to say about the man, Demetrius:
“Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself.” Everyone loved and respected Demetrius. Even when measured up against the truth, that is the gospel of Christ, Demetrius did not come up short. His life, his reputation stacked up honestly and in line with the truth itself. What better reputation can you have than that? Wouldn’t we all like to leave this world with a good report from everyone? Wouldn’t it be great to know that if our reputation is measured against the truth, (that is lined up next to the gospel Christ), that it would be found acceptably in line with Christ?
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”(Romans 12:17-18)
“Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3-4)
Conclusion: What if the Apostle John wrote a letter describing your reputation? What good, or what bad, would he have to say?
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (II Corinthians 13:5)