“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:3–11 NKJV)
Have you ever wondered how the Lord Jesus could endure such hostility against Himself? No matter how great of things He seemed to do there was always that element of people around who were trying to destroy His reputation. In fact, the religious leaders even stooped to saying He had a demon. The time would fail to simply list all the times in the Gospels when people were trying to slander Him. How would you and I handle such treatment?
Jesus was humble in the extreme. His beginning was humble, His life was humble, and His death was utter humiliation. Yet we never read of Him fighting back. Think of the times He was mocked. Even His disciples once participated in a raucous where a family laughed Him to scorn (Luke 8:50-55). Indeed, He warned the religious leaders that if they continued to say He had a demon they could be blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but He includes in that warning the hope that people who spoke evil of Him, personally, could find forgiveness. How would you and I handle such treatment?
I truly believe that reputation can become an idol in our life that we serve in a way that does not please the Lord and it hinders our effectiveness as Christians. How far are we willing to go to “not allow our good to be evil spoken of” or protect our reputation? True to the image above much of our reputation is manufactured anyhow. How often do we project to people what we want them to believe about us?
It is human nature to seek to control what others think about us. When David sinned with Bathsheba he was willing to murder one of his most trusted friends in order to cover it up. He was far too concerned in the beginning about what people thought rather than God. He wanted his legacy to be that of killing a lion, bear, and Goliath… or a psalmist who could play and sing and demons would flee. Who wouldn’t? Nobody wants to be remembered as an adulterer. Why? Because our primary concern is far too often our reputation.
When Jesus came into the world He emptied Himself and humbled Himself like a slave. This is what it means for Him to “make Himself of no reputation.” He is God and was willing to humble Himself in this way. What a staggering thing to consider. Perhaps the most striking thing is that while Jesus was emptying Himself out (so to speak) — laying down His reputation — we are perpetually tempted build ours up. We want to be respected and recognized. We want people to know what great talents and abilities we have. Or do we?
“Not caring what others think” does not mean that we all become sociopaths. Jesus was no sociopath — He was touched with the feeling of our weaknesses. Nor does it mean we become careless and foolish. When we make ourselves of no reputation we are liberated from the constant pressure to measure up to whatever version of ourselves we are trying to project. All that God asks is that we walk in the Spirit. If we will do that we will live a life pleasing to Him. But when we get caught up esteeming ourselves better than others — making a reputation for ourselves — we are moving in selfish ambition, conceit, pride and a host of other repulsive and destructive things.
The world says, “Guard your reputation!” Certainly, we want to have a good reputation in the eyes of the world. We should be people of moral character, integrity, honesty, etc. That’s not what this is about. It’s about self-exaltation. It’s about lifting ourselves up by projecting comic-book type caricatures of ourselves. If you or I find ourselves behaving this way the only solution is to repent. The same God who hates a proud look gives us a choice. Paul said, “Let this mind be in you.” We have to allow God to do it in us through the Holy Spirit. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. Amen.