He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. 1 Timothy 3:7(NIV).
Let’s talk about reputation. Paul is talking about an overseer, an elder. He’s saying that the people selected as elders must be people of good repute. They must be upstanding citizens in the church of God, believers who are respected both in and out of the church…especially outside the church. They must be this kind of people because, if they aren’t, they risk disgrace and falling under the influence of Satan.
Tell me: do you have that kind of reputation? I’ll easily confess it: I don’t. Too many times in the past, by things I have done and said, I’ve disqualified myself from being someone like an elder. I’ll confess again: I didn’t set out to do that. I didn’t set out to become the kind of person you wouldn’t want to be. It happened because of choices I made, of choosing sin over choosing God. I fell into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
So I’ll ask again: do you have that kind of reputation? Are you the kind of person who praises Jesus one minute and looks in lust at that good looking woman or man the next? Do you lie? Are you envious? Worse than these, are these the kinds of things that people think or say about you? Bad news, my friend: you might not be elder material either. Maybe we’re both due for a reputation gut-check.
Now let’s turn that bad news upside down. You and I weren’t made for disgrace, bad reputations, or that old devil’s trap. We were made to be very good sons and daughters of the Most High, the Triune God who Luther celebrated with his 95 statements five centuries ago. When we believe in Jesus, God sees through our disgrace and poor reputations and sees Jesus living in us. He sees His Spirit remaking us in His image, replacing our evil ways with His fruits like love, kindness, peace, patience, and self-control. When God looks at us through Jesus, He sees an elder-kind of person, someone whose bad reputation was remade for a good one. What the church or outsiders think matters little.
Mind you, the devil is still setting his traps. He has since Eden and will until the end. Sin will still hunt us, trying to pull us away from Jesus, trying to tar our reputations once again. Don’t fall for it. Love defeats Satan. The love of Jesus is more powerful than what others think, or what Satan attempts. Besides, it’s what God thinks of me that matters. True, we want elders (and all leaders) to be people of good character and better reputation. But what God thinks of us is far more important.
For further reading: Mark 4:11, 2 Timothy 2:26, Galatians 5:22-25, 1 Timothy 3:8-13
Lord, all praise to You that You see Your beautiful Son in me. Thank You.