A church sign near where we live reads, “Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.” It’s an encouraging thought, but I would like to change that sign. I would like for it read something such as “Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of God.” Or we might change it to refer to the mercy of God or His grace or God’s love, even God’s power.
The reason I began toying with that saying was because God kept reminding me of how concerned He is about His reputation. I began to notice how often God acts for His name’s sake. Sometimes that means God is doing something because of who He is. He is revealing His character. For instance, God leads us “in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3). He leads in right paths because of who He is—caring, trustworthy, purposeful, and more. But God also uses that “for My name’s sake” phrase to signal His concern for what others think about Him. (God is not conducting a popularity contest, but He cares because He loves us and is reaching out to humankind.)
Here are some examples from scripture of God’s concern for His reputation:
- Abraham argued that God, the Judge of all the earth, needed to maintain a reputation as one who acts justly and does not destroy the righteous with the wicked (Gen. 18:25).
- Moses argued “what will the Egyptians think” when God said He would destroy all Israel after the golden calf incident (Exod. 32:12). God said He would not destroy all Israel.
- The psalmist reminded Israel that despite their rebellion God cared for them “for the sake of His name that He might make His power known” (Psalm 106:8). Israel was to be God’s advertisement to the nations.
- God explained to Ezekiel why He did not destroy His people several times throughout their history. He relented for His name’s sake (Ezekiel 20:8, 14, 22).
- Paul wrote that the Jews gave God such a bad reputation that Gentiles blasphemed the name of God (Rom. 2:24). Presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ would change that.
In all these and more God is saying that His reputation among His own and among others is important. If for some reason people think God is distant, capricious, untrustworthy, or cruel, they may try to appease Him. They will not love or trust Him. If people come to think God is gracious and caring, it may be more difficult for them to turn away.
That takes us back to thinking about the church sign referred to above. What if we changed that so that it became a reminder that we can influence others’ view of God? What if we could be the reason someone believes in God’s mercy or in God’s power? Imagine having this on the dash of our car: “Be the reason someone believes God loves them.” Perhaps like you, my immediate thought is how to act in such a way that people think about God in a positive way. Then I realize that although actions may speak louder than words, actions by themselves seldom are enough. We have to let people know what it is that makes us tick, makes us different (if we are different).
Despite the turmoil in our land and our world, most of us live in safe neighborhoods where a certain level of civility is common. Lost neighbors as well as converted ones may do “random acts of kindness.” People who have no thought for God are as concerned about justice as those declared innocent before God through Christ. We even greet one another with a smile (through the mask) and a “How are you?” So, when we have the opportunity to serve a neighbor or friend, if we want our service to be linked to God’s love or greatness, we have to speak up. People may be influenced to believe in the goodness of people or not. We want them to believe in the goodness of God.