It’s late August here in Atlanta, and though the summer heat will probably linger for a while yet, September with its cooler evenings isn’t far away. And for a sports fan like me, that can only mean one thing…
I really started to get excited about the upcoming season when I was listening to some of the interviews with the new inductees into the NFL Hall of Fame. I wasn’t even thinking about anything of a spiritual nature until I heard comments from former Pittsburgh Steelers player, Jerome Bettis. Standing at the podium to accept his honor, he reflected on something his father told him many years ago.
“Son, I’m sending you off to school. I don’t have much to give you, but I have a good name. Don’t mess it up.”
Any parent understands what this wise father was telling his son… that one foolish decision has the destructive power to ruin a good reputation that took a lifetime to establish.
While I can’t know if the elder Bettis reads scripture or not, his words do echo the advice that Solomon gives to us in the book of Proverbs. Chapter 22 opens by saying:
“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
Today you’ll often hear people say, “I don’t care what people think about me.” Of course it’s true that our actions shouldn’t always be directed by seeking the approval of others, because the shifting nature of popular opinion these days can all to quickly lead even the most committed of us away from truth. So to guard against being drawn away, we must be rooted in the solid, unchanging and trustworthy truths of the Word of God regardless of the opinions of those around us who would disagree. But, at the same time, we should be mindful of what our behavior and speech says about our beliefs. That way, even when people differ with us, they should always leave convinced that we are who we say we are. That is, our outward behavior should be consistent with our inward beliefs.
A few chapters earlier in Proverbs 3, Solomon delivers some additional guidance for developing and maintaining a “good name” that will bring honor to our Heavenly Father. Consider his simple outline:
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
Most people have met Christians who are fantastic students of the scripture who can easily best just about anyone with their ability to expound the truth. But how many of them do so without compassion, kindness and sensitivity. On the other hand, far too many churches are filled with believers who are warm and considerate toward others, but lack the scriptural insight that’s the bedrock foundation of Biblical discernment. And as a result, in their desire to express love, they all too often unwittingly open the door to almost any aberrant philosophy as well.
Having all seen too many examples of both of these extremes, we know from experience that neither truth without mercy nor mercy without truth will lead to a positive impression left on others that declares us as faithful followers of Christ. It’s only when mercy and truth are intertwined and become evident in your actions (worn “around the neck” –vs 3) and integrated into the core of your being (written on the “tablet of the heart”- vs 3) that you will establish a strong reputation that earns the respect of others… and brings honor to the good Name of our Heavenly Father.