The day before my family’s annual Christmas party, the one where we take pictures of all of us dressed up together, my son’s best friend managed to nail him in the face with the handle end of a snow shovel. Shortly after the incident, his eye and cheek began to swell up and turn a variety of attractive colors. After some ice and tender care, I texted his grandmother to tell her of the incident, hoping that she had some Christmas décor that went well with the colors black and blue. After time, the colors and pain will go away, but the memories, and photographs, of it won’t. When we fondly look back at those Christmas moments, we will most likely remember the timeliness of his accident more so than the actual Christmas moments.
How is it that such a small blemish can outshine any and all other memories? His black eye started me thinking about similarities to the long-lasting effects our bad deeds can have on our reputations. As my father used to tell me, our name is our most valuable asset. When we you have a good reputation, people tend to associate good things with you when they see your name. I can remember getting rosters at the beginning of the school year and when seeing a familiar last name, being filled with excitement or dread based on the reputation of that name. Like the black eye on my son’s face, our deeds can sometimes bruise and batter our reputations, causing others to see us not for who we truly are but for the things that we’ve done. And like a minor black eye, a small misdeed can have long-lasting effects that don’t always heal well. Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “glass, china, and reputation, are easily cracked, and never well mended.” If I were to drop a glass, even with my best efforts, I can never make it seem like new. The smallest imperfection makes the entire piece imperfect.
Likewise, one small misdeed can alter an entire life’s worth of charity, kindness, and love. The author of Proverbs also knew the value of a good name when he wrote: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (22.1). No amount of money can purchase a good reputation, as a good reputation is more valuable than anything. I’ve often warned my students that if they are concerned about a good reputation, that they should live the way they want to be remembered. The results of that reflection usually reveal their reputation. If they don’t like the findings, then they should change their approach to life and live life not for others but to be known as they would like others to know them.
Now, in God’s eyes, the bigger problem is that because of sin, we all have damaged reputations and black eyes. Our names have been marred, and we are now imperfect and broken. No amount of good deeds can restore the shattered sinful lives we all lead. But the strength in knowing this fact is also in knowing that there is nothing we can do to restore our reputation. We need a redeemer, someone who is perfect and can restore any blight we might have on our souls. Through Christ’s love, we are restored to perfection if we accept Him as our redeemer, but should we reject Him, we are worth no more than cracked china and broken glass. By admitting our helplessness and need for a savior, we are then restored, saved, and covered in His love, and that salvation’s value is worth more than anything on Earth. Amen.