Who Are You? 

The Making of a Reputation

By Joe Caruso Stories

Who do others say that you are? Does it matter, or is it just what you think of yourself that counts? 

There’s a frame of thought, that says we shouldn’t care what others say or think about us. It’s how we see ourselves that matters. And there is truth to that in the proper context. But, unless we live alone on a mountaintop, away from civilization, what others think about us will always be important.

If we want healthy relationships, and the ability to influence and inspire others, we must concern ourselves with how we are perceived. What others say or think about us will in time become our reputation. For better or for worse we will carry it wherever we go.

In three of the four gospels, Jesus asked his disciples this same question of himself – “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples responded with a variety of answers. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Then Jesus turned the tables and asked his disciples – “Who do you say that I am?” At this point, Peter responded with one of the greatest declarations in the gospels, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

After Peter’s declaration, it’s the Book of Matthew, that elaborates further. Jesus confirmed Peter’s statement, establishing that it would indeed be Jesus the Messiah, who would become the very foundation, on which the church would be built.

It’s an epic moment in the New Testament. One that reveals a fundamental truth of Christianity. But what does it have to do with our reputation?

The obvious takeaway from this story is the declaration that Jesus is the Messiah and the rock through which the Church would be established.

But it’s the somewhat lesser profound verse from Matthew 16:14, that has always intrigued me. The answer the disciples gave to Jesus’ initial question, “Who do people say that I am?”. Their answer has always given me a reason to pause and think. 

Two things are clear based on this verse. One, the people at this point in Jesus’ ministry weren’t exactly sure who he was. And two, they knew that he must be someone extraordinary. Jesus clearly, made a reputation for himself.

So how was it that others had this perception of Jesus? And, how can we apply it to our life? 

Jesus didn’t begin his ministry by declaring that he was the Messiah. He first laid the groundwork. At this point in his ministry, Jesus had already healed the sick, outsmarted the Pharisees, fed the multitudes, spoken the sermon on the mount, walked on the water and even raised the dead. It’s no wonder that Jesus was the talk of the town.

Jesus took the time to invest in people. By demonstrating his humble but life-transforming character and willingness to serve others, Jesus gained the trust of those around him. He communicated in a way that went straight to the heart and won over his followers with love and compassion.

The result? When the time was right, others started seeing Jesus as someone supernatural, even before he declared it himself. Jesus’ reputation went before him. 

Without laying the groundwork, and establishing his reputation, Jesus’ claim of being the Messiah would have fallen on deaf ears. He wouldn’t have built the reputation to make such a claim had it not been for his daily interactions with people. What Jesus did and said aligned with who he was.

We can use the example Jesus laid out in our own life. We can develop our character by doing those things we know are good and right. We can focus daily, on who God has called us to be. Steady, consistent actions will affect how others perceive us, and, in time develop our reputation. With a proper reputation, we will gain the trust of those around us maintain healthier relationships and make a difference in our community. 

The Bible is clear, that as Christians we are to follow Jesus’ example. We are to serve others sacrificially, extend our love and compassion to those in need and stand up for truth. When others see us, they should see a reflection of Jesus shining through us.

The thought, of being called to reflect Jesus to the world can be overwhelming. Paul, wrote a beautiful excerpt in Philippians 2 to show us what this could look like.

Reading this passage reminds me why people were so attracted to Jesus. It also reminds me how I often fail to measure up to this standard.

I pray that we can be more like Jesus so that when others see us, they can see Jesus shining through us. I hope that we all, in time, can have the reputation of Christ. Not as saviour and Lord but as a humble servant, motivated by compassion and love. I’m thankful that Jesus showed by example, how we can be more like him.

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