Several guys named John have gotten me thinking about character lately. (Granted, not all of them spell their names the same way, but still.) A Johnny Cash Song started it, Jonathan Falwell marinated it, and John the disciple cooked it through.
Have you ever had someone (we will call him John Doe to keep with the theme here) make a mistake, then try to drag you through the mud and turn your name into just that? It hurts, doesn’t it? It hurts when someone you trust turns their back on you and tries to cover up their own mistakes by putting the blame and consequences on you. I’ve been there several times and oh boy, did it hurt. It still does, actually, when I think about it. When people have tried to protect their own reputations by attacking me or my loved ones with falsities, it shot flaming arrows with poison directly at our hearts. But one thing remained constant: our character. And it wasn’t because of our own build up. It was because we are living, breathing members of a body that belongs not to ourselves, but to Christ. And His spirit lives in and through us.
When we were in the middle of one of these situations, an old Johnny Cash song came to my mind. I was angry. I mean really angry. I was thinking about joining a gym with a slam man or a punching bag because I was so ticked off at the treatment being dished out to my core family. I listened to this song over and over as a battle cry responding to the shots fired against us:
Well you may throw your rock and hide your handWorkin’ in the dark against your fellow manBut as sure as God made black and whiteWhat’s done in the dark will be brought to the lightYou can run on for a long timeRun on for a long timeSooner or later God’ll cut you downGo tell that long tongue liarGo and tell that midnight riderTell the rambler, the gambler, the back biterTell ’em that God’s gonna cut you down
Now, I don’t think it would be the right thing to go chase the folks that hurt us with their lies and throw the fact that God’s going to cut them down at them. But I do know, that their character has been exposed. God already knows their character, but now we do too. What has been done in the dark will indeed be brought to the light. They will have to deal with the consequences of that eventually.The same is true on our side. The things we have done in secret will one day be luminously exposed. Have we made mistakes? Yes- huge and minute ones alike. But are we to try to cover those things up to make ourselves look like infallible humans?
Maybe that’s one part of worship a lot of us overlook. Accepting responsibility when we make mistakes, rather than shifting the blame on someone else to try to protect our reputation, brings an admission to the world that we are not perfect. Are we to be more concerned about protecting our own reputation than the reputation of Christ? If He is living in us, then our character should reflect His. We won’t assume His full constitution, though, until we are in His presence. But in our weaknesses and mistakes, we can abide by the most important aspect of His character: truth. If truth isn’t the key element to His make up, then what’s the point? The way and the life are irrelevant if He is not the truth. By walking in truth, we admit that we are not nearly as important as we or anyone else think we are, and the reputation of the one who’s name we bear is paramount to our own. Pastor Jonathan Falwell put it best when he said, “Character is far more important than reputation.”
The disciple John seals the deal in His third chapter, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (v.20-21). You better believe it when I say that I hate when the spotlight is on me at the time I make a mistake. I just want to evaporate and have the world forget me. But when I am authentic even after I have done something wrong, a wonderful thing happens. The abundant forgiveness that my redeemer has given me stands taller than I do in the radiance of truth. When you’re having a conflict like this with a mixture of believers and non-believers, it isn’t expected that those who don’t carry His name would understand this. But the way you respond and the life that you live catches the reflection of the light of the world. Whether that John Doe in your life likes it or not, he will see true character defined. And that can never tarnish your reputation.