These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Revelation 3:1-3)
A reputation is a powerful thing. Because a reputation (good or bad) is often not reality, but only someone’s impression of reality. And in our day and age—as well as that of the church at Sardis apparently—impression is everything. If you can create and maintain the impression you are hoping for, then who cares what the reality is, right? Thus, impression becomes all about reputation management. What people think about you becomes more important than what the truth about you really is. As long as you can keep up the charade you are good to go.
But keeping up the charade can be exhausting, and darn near impossible over time. Eventually someone is going to find out the ugly truth. There is always that one person in any crowd that is adept at spotting a phony. Someone who is somehow magically or supernaturally able to see right through the façade—right down to the core. And when this happens we are horrified. Because somehow our greatest fear—and maybe, at the same time, our deepest longing—comes true, we are exposed.
That’s how the church at Sardis must’ve felt. They had worked and worked at maintaining a good reputation, even though they knew deep in their hearts that there was no life in their souls. And then, here comes Jesus into the midst of the pretense, calling their bluff and tearing their finely crafted costume to smithereens. At that point they must have been in scramble mode. I mean, what do you do? Deny it? Ignore it? Avoid it? Rationalize? Or do you resort to attack? What is the best strategy for damage control? How can we spin it so that our reputation—which we have worked so hard on—still comes out intact?
Or maybe there is another solution. Maybe we do exactly what Jesus is suggesting. Maybe we admit the truth. Maybe we come clean and stop trying to fool ourselves—and others. Maybe we take it as a wake-up call to start living an authentic life with God. Maybe we repent. Maybe we change our minds, our way of thinking (as well as our direction), and begin to see everything and live everything differently. Maybe we realize that reality is more important than reputation and we start trying to be authentic people in Christ; more concerned with how we’re loving than with what people are thinking. Like Jesus; who “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8, KJV)
Most Holy God, wake me up from my soul’s deep slumber and bring my life under your complete control. By your grace, awaken me daily to the reality of your presence within and around me. And, by the power of your Spirit, make me responsive to your will and your direction. Amen.