by Dane Massey
(Dane Massey is the former Pastor of Mulvane Christian Church. He is now in ministry in Houston, Texas.)
Spent this week thinking on Philippians 2:7 and Jesus’ approach to reputation:
“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:” (KJV)
“but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men” (NASB).
I am captivated by the phrase, “made himself of no reputation” (emptied himself). It implies the idea of emptying oneself of oneself.
Christ, the Son of God, the Creator of all, chose to empty Himself, to have “no reputation.” We spend so much of our lives building a reputation, “a good name”. There has never been a time when “put some respect on it” has been more demanded and less deserved than the age we live in.
We are an age consumed with establishing and building our brand. If anyone had a right to demand respect it was our Savior, yet He walked a path that brought reproach. What was His reputation?
“This man receives sinners, and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).
“The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Matt. 11:19).
“And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).
Scripture clearly paints a picture of Jesus choosing, from the place where He lived to the people He built relationships with, a lifestyle that was not conducive to a good reputation.
Even His death would be notorious. To be crucified was the lowest, reserved for the off scouring of the criminal world. To be crucified between two petty thieves would be the ultimate humiliation.
That was my cross He died on, my true reputation He willingly took on, as He emptied Himself of His own.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Cor. 5:21).
There is some tension here if I desire to walk this path with Him. What about a “good name”?
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1).
A good name obviously has great value. The concern, the drive to have a good name, however, brings a snare. When we seek a particular reputation, we are on a slippery slope indeed.
To have a good name is one thing, to seek after it is another. When we seek to build a reputation, we now must fear what men will think and those who speak the loudest, “I don’t care what people think,” merely give testimony that they do care.
How do we know when we have entered into this snare?
Outward acts are exaggerated, events are embellished, and accomplishments are enlarged. An image is established, a reputation is gained and a lie is now being lived. When this lie is lived too long, we lose track of who we really are. The fear of facing the truth, living in the light before God and others, becomes a consuming fear. The Biblical principle of “deceiving and being deceived” eventually comes true and we now live in a false reality that we’ve created.
Even as we think on Christ and His reputation we must think properly. He didn’t set out to have a bad reputation, He merely chose no reputation, and walked in His Father’s will.
It’s amazing to watch believers today. Some obviously want the reputation of:
“I’m a conservative. Tough on sin!”
“I’m committed to Social Justice!”
We polish our image through the things we do, the sermons we preach, the books we read, the podcasts we listen to, who we hang out with. That’s why we make sure those important people know what we’re up to and think. Social media makes this so popular. If we’re not careful we will fall under the rebuke of Christ in Matthew 11:16-19
“But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, ‘We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.”
The danger now is the same as then, that we will demand a Christ who supports our reputation rather than follow the One who made Himself of no reputation.
The path to the Cross may be painful but it is liberating for it frees us from burden of propping up an image that grows heavier every day.