Your story, as told by others
There is an old riddle that asks the question:
What belongs to you, but everyone else uses more than you do?
The answer is – your name.
All kidding aside, there is a fair bit of truth to that. However, others rarely use just our names. Attached to the use of our names is that person’s opinion of us…our reputation.
Reputations can be broad and widely held, but they can also be held by individuals. A “good” reputation can take a long time to build, and only a momentary lapse in judgment or selfishness can completely destroy one. And to top it all off, there’s only so much we can do about them, since we’re not around when our reputation (for better or worse) is communicated to a new someone.
Therefore, our reputations will go ahead of us into places that we’ve never been to. It may feel strange to think but people miles away from us, whom we’ve never met, could actually have an opinion about who we are.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Philemon, he was in prison, and most scholars believe he was being held in Rome. As the crow flies, Rome is over 900 miles from Colossae. If you were to drive a car from Rome to Colossae on today’s highways, it would take you nearly 30 hours to get there. Now let your mind move back to ancient Bible times….no cars, no social media. A person’s reputation could really only travel by word of mouth.
And yet, from that far away, Paul hears of Philemon’s reputation:
I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.
Whenever Philemon’s name comes up in conversation, what Paul also hears about is all the ways that Philemon demonstrates his love and faith. By his actions and words, people can recognize his priorities. They can also see which relationships in his life that Philemon considers the most important. And his reputation of love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints went out for at least 900 miles!
I suppose, however, we shouldn’t be all that surprised at this, since Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper:
I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Jesus said all people. When our love for one another is recognizable to others, it will also become our reputation. And a reputation like Philemon’s will point others toward Jesus…even if we’re not physically there to share the gospel.