Guest post by Todd Stevens.
Many people have reputations that can be summed in just a word or two. Thomas Edison: inventor. Jeff Foxworthy: hilarious. If someone summarized you in just a few words, how would they describe you? I was a Christian for years before I realized Jesus had specified exactly what my reputation should be.
“Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” (John 13:34b-35, The Voice)Jesus said that as a person who follows Him, I should be known for loving other people the way He loved me. Every person I know thinks of himself as a loving person. I’ll bet you think of yourself that way, too. After all, you’re kind to strangers, don’t kick puppies, and sometimes even yield to other drivers. The problem with your self-assessment, though, is that you don’t get to decide what your reputation is. By definition, your reputation is determined by others. In fact, even your enemies play a part in deciding your reputation. That’s a scary thought.
So are people talking about how loving you are? I’m not asking whether you sometimes go on mission trips or donate to good causes. Mission trips are great, but when you have a better reputation with people two thousand miles away than the guy living right down the street, then that is a problem. If our love isn’t showing up outwardly in tangible ways in everyday life, then it’s not the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated for us. Loving like Jesus will impact your schedule, your budget, and your circle of friends. Before long, it will even impact your reputation.
The quickest way to begin building the reputation you want is by becoming intentional about it. My wife, Erin, got started by taking meals and gifts to the employees of a local strip club to show God’s love in a practical way with no strings attached. I started by paying for a stranger’s lunch each day. What God has done as a result of those small steps has been nothing short of amazing. Our book, How to Pick Up a Stripper – and Other Acts of Kindness, unpacks how anyone can effectively reach people in their own community through kindness and meeting needs. It also shares stories about how people have taken steps to be known for love and how God has used their obedience to change lives.
By meeting needs and doing acts of kindness, you can connect with people right where they are and invite them to take the next step toward God. By doing it day after day, you’ll be able to build exactly the reputation that Jesus said you’re supposed to have. But before you can start building a reputation for loving like Jesus, you have to decide whether it’s a reputation worth pursuing. If you decide it is, then you get started by showing God’s love to others, one situation at a time. You won’t be known for the things you always intended to do. Your reputation is based on what you actually do. So what will you do today to demonstrate God’s love to someone?
Todd Stevens is the pastor of Friendship Community Church, Mt. Juliet, TN, one of the fastest growing churches in America. Friendship is known for finding creative ways to show God’s love in the community, and over 90% of the regular attenders are involved in service opportunities. Todd is also a church consultant in the area of servant evangelism. Todd and his wife, Erin, are the authors of How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness.