I Don't Care What You Think

Do you care what other people think of you?  Better yet, should you care what other people think of you?  The answer isn't a simple "yes" or "no". It all depends on which direction you're coming from. Let me explain.

There is a tendency to let the opinions of others define us, direct us, or destroy us. Sometimes the opinions of others define us, or contribute to our identity. This becomes a problem if we receive negative feedback, and we have a wrong concept of our identity. Or maybe we make decisions based on what we think will make other people have a better opinion of us. This has certainly gotten us into trouble before, when we depend on the wrong people. Worse yet, we can let the hurtful statements of others crush us. Sometimes it only takes one hurtful comment to get us off track. When you look at the impact of these three types of situations, it might make sense to take the approach that we shouldn't be concerned about what other people think of us.

But there are some interesting scriptures that suggest an alternative view.
Proverbs 22:1 says "A good name is more desirable than great wealth"
In Acts 24:16, Paul says "...I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men."
1 Peter 2:12 says "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"
And when Paul is instructing Timothy in the qualities of a minister, he says "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 Timothy 3:7
These are just a few of the numerous verses that show us the importance of maintaining a good reputation, especially with those who do not belong to the family of God.  But why?  

This is the second approach to the question of our reputation. In the first case, the opinions of others were causes that resulted in negative effects to us. In this case, though, the opinions of others are the result of something that God causes in us. Because we are Christians, we act, speak, and think in a manner that reflects Christ. When we do this, we will generally be thought well of by those around us. Obviously there will always be a few who dislike us for what we believe, but they won't be able to criticize us for the way we treat them.

So what are the practical benefits of this alternative approach?
First, we can use the opinions of others as a sort of mirror to help us identify areas where growth is needed. If we take an honest look at what others think, we may find that some of their negativity is warranted. Suppose my wife calls me lazy. If I'm willing to consider her opinion, I may find an area of my life where I can improve the way I show up. And if we are confident in our God-given identity, the unwarranted negative opinions of our detractors has less of a chance to lead us to make poor choices.
Second, there is value in having a good reputation among our Christian brothers and sisters. In Philippians chapter 2, Paul instructs the church to hold men like Epaphroditus in high regard. Why? Because it builds confidence in others. Think about the people in your life that you look up to as spiritual leaders. Does your opinion of them matter? Of course it does. It matters to you! If you have been in our ministry long, you probably have at least one or two people whose spiritual leadership has inspired you to go deeper in your own walk. What kind of man or woman do you want standing beside you when you go into battle? Are you that kind of person? Finally, and perhaps more importantly, how we are viewed by those who do not have a relationship with Christ has a lot to do with the effectiveness of our evangelistic efforts. In the passage from 1 Peter 2, the claim is being made that the unsaved, who see the good works of Christ followers, may be persuaded to become followers themselves.

It's comforting to know that our eternal destiny is not affected by the positive or negative opinions of others. But it's challenging to consider what kind of spiritual reputation I have among my brothers, as well as my unsaved neighbors. May God continue to refine me into a man who, like Paul, has "a blameless conscience both before God and before men."

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