Character and Reputation
Probably a working definition of the terms with which this article is titled would be: "Character refers to what a person is; reputation is what people in general think he is." Often they may be about the same, for the old saying that you can fool some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time is probably true.
All of us are probably aware of persons whom we have considered as "honest as the day is long." But when some situation arose that was revealing, we discovered that the night came all too soon.
It is sad that throughout the brotherhood there are those who can fly 1000 miles to speak on a lecture program about the value of personal evangelism, but have never been known to walk across the street to set up a Bible study. There are those who write excellent articles for what we think are some of the best papers in the brotherhood, but whose moral qualities are such that those who know them best trust them the least.
There are those who seem to float around like buzzards looking for something rotten to feast on, and when they can not find anything rotten, try to make it that way with innuendo, perversions, and sometimes outright lies. We have not yet discovered why they seem to fit so well into the description given in Romans 1:29-30, "full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things," and perhaps we would have to be able to judge men's motives to discover why, but although we do not know why they invent evil things, we do know they invent them.
We know men who seem to be opposed to good works that they did not begin, or were begun by those for whom they had little regard. They are unable to offer any scriptural reason for their opposition, but they are full of hints, suggestions, doubts and questions about which they apparently want no answers.
If it is Jones, Smith and Brown whom they wish to destroy, they make no allegations, in many cases. They simply raise such questions as this, "Have you heard Mr. Jones attempt to make any defense of the charges of homosexuality which have been raised about him?" "We are not charging Mr. Smith of anything wrong (at this time), but it is reported that he is associating with Mr. Jones, about whom we have reservations, and until he disproves the charges that are leveled against him, we are simply going to say that it our observation that 'birds of a feather flock together' and leave it at that." But they seldom leave it at that. They proceed with something like this, "I have not heard of Mr. Brown getting drunk at all for the last two weeks, and he is apparently not now being unfaithful to his wife. I have great hopes for him, except for the fact that he associates with Smith and Jones."
The truth of the matter is that they never heard of Mr. Brown ever getting drunk, and he has never been unfaithful to his wife. If pressed on the matter, they can piously say, "I never accused him of anything."
It is perfectly legitimate, scriptural, proper and good for us to ask questions for information about any program, doctrine, activity or person with whom we have to deal. We have supposedly "sound" brethren who seem to specialize in such questions as "Have you stopped beating your wife?" and sometimes, "When did you stop beating your wife?" under the guise of obeying the scripture in 1 Thess. 5:21, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." It is very sad, for there are enough cases of verified false teaching and ungodly living without having to manufacture some.
Perhaps a buzzard can be sprayed with cologne and think, "I am really a butterfly or hummingbird," and he may even smell that way for a while. But if one watches closely where he always lands, one will discover that flowers are not his interest or concern, but something vile, even if he has to make it himself.
In all probability, if a man's reputation is not able to stand on its own feet, so to speak, with those who know him best, his reputation may not be worth much in the first place. But when a person who claims to be a gospel preacher starts spreading bad rumors, innuendoes and doubtful things about another person whom you may not know personally, but whom you have had no reason to doubt, you would do well to do some close checking on those who know them both before you start believing and reacting to those evil reports.
If each of us will make sure we take care of our character, our reputation will probably eventually take care of itself, even though it may come under attack by some jealous or ungodly person. Perhaps we should better understand and appreciate Luke 6:26, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!" However, we have a right to expect brothers in Christ to speak well of us until we have actually been proven to be false in doctrine or practice.
T. Pierce Brown
Published in The Old Paths Archive