“A fake reputation is all a man has.” So says Flynn Rider in the relatively recent release Tangled (which I recommend checking out if you have not seen). Flynn shares this thought as he demands Rapunzel (the movie’s heroine) not share the story of his past life as an orphan. The line is passed off as a joke in the movie but there seems to be some truth in it.
When it comes down to it, few people around us know our actual reputation. Instead we give them a souped-up, exciting, more confident version. Or sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes we give them a downtrodden victimized perspective in an attempt to garner sympathy. We cater to those around us because, after all, a fake reputation’s all a man has and we deeply care what others think.
In the Christian world, this too often becomes a willing ignorance of sin. I sin, you sin but none of us want to talk about it. When we do (maybe around a campfire where none of us can really see the others’ faces) we have a hearty “ra-ra, let’s-beat-this-thing” moment but when the next day breaks we’re back to pretending that one night fixed everything. And we all know it didn’t. But, then again, a fake reputation’s all a man has.
Then we try to do it with God. Maybe if I just do enough good things, maybe if I serve others all the time and take advantage of every opportunity that is given me, then God will ignore my sin problem. Maybe if I can do enough, he won’t hold my struggles against me. We attempt to give God a fake reputation, because, after all, a fake reputation’s all a man has.
I’m certainly guilty of all of these things at some point or other in my life. And in those times I have completely missed the gospel. Jesus made clear that he didn’t come for the put together or for those of good repute, but he came to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10).
Christ’s incarnation, God’s true revelation to man of himself is not simply a cosmic “look how much better I am than you” from God. It’s an invitation to bring our authentic selves. Christ is the true image of God, and he invites us towards him in the midst of being truly ourselves – broken, weary and hurting.
When we approach him like this, the miracle happens. Our reputation, which we spend so much time thinking about, investing in and worrying over gets whisked away. Suddenly, we stand before God, not with our fake reputation or even the reputation we deserve but with Christ’s reputation.
We’re called to shed our own fake reputation and put forth the one that really matters: Christ’s, the one that saves us. May we refuse to hide in light of his goodness, refuse to ignore sin in light of his grace, and refuse to pretend in light of his call on our lives.
Because, after all, Christ’s reputation is all a man has.