Reputation matters. “As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honour” (Ecc 10:1 NIV). Reputable people earn respect by consistently doing what is right and addressing what is wrong; this is why they are trusted and their words carry weight. Reputable organisations earn respect similarly; this is why they draw attention, audiences and long-term support. To be a trustworthy organisation in the service of our mission, Singapore Bible College has to keep in mind the building blocks of a good reputation. We may draw a few lessons about this from the early church.
1. Do what is right and right what is wrong
Even at the very beginning of the church, there were disputes among new converts. It was crucial to ensure that reputable persons were elected to lead and manage the needs of the newborn Christian community. So, the apostles gathered the disciples and instructed them to “select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task” (Acts 6:3 NASB). These leaders would do what is right for the community.
However, doing the right thing is hard work and can be tricky at times. Paul found his intentions being undermined, his words twisted, and his name defamed in the Corinthian church. He referred to “dishonour, bad report ” and being “genuine, yet regarded as imposters” (2 Cor 6:8 NIV). How did Paul defend his reputation? He continued to do the right thing despite being treated unfairly: “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us” (2 Cor 6:11–12 NIV).
2. Protect your co-workers and their reputations
Addressing his co-workers Euodia and Syntyche about their dispute with each other, Paul pleaded with them to be like-minded (Phil 4:2). Moreover, he sought support (from a “true companion”) to help them, affirming that the women have shared in his gospel ministry and that “their names are in the book of life” as are the names of other co-workers (Phil 4:2–3). Hence, Paul earnestly protected his co-workers, as far as they did not promote heresy (Phil 3:2) or immorality (Phil 3:18–19).
Benjamin Franklin is thought to have said, “It takes many good deeds to build a reputation and only one bad one to lose it.” This is true with words too. Words can build as well as destroy. It is well known that trusted sources like peer reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations, and popular social media accounts are more powerful than any form of paid advertising. It is thus crucial for Christians not to misuse words and stop the spread of either untrue words or anything less than truth whether in person or online. While we cannot avoid receiving words from others, we would be wise not to share any words that could do undeserving harm to a reputation. As co-workers in Christ, we should even clarify matters with the affected parties where necessary.
3. Reputation matters, but truth matters most
Would you sacrifice your reputation for the sake of values and principles? Would you give up appealing to everyone and forgo the instant gratification of their approval to uphold convictions and beliefs? Paul reprimanded the Galatians for their waywardness in turning to a different gospel (Gal 1:6–7): “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10 NIV). What is true is not necessarily what is popular.
Paul also stated this clearly to the Corinthians:
Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. (2 Cor 13:7–8 NIV)
My dear friends in Christ, never lose sight of this last building block of a good reputation for the sake of our cornerstone, Jesus Christ!