Grandpa Heinold was an ardent follower of Consumer Reports. Before any major purchase, and even some minor ones, he would scour the articles for the consumer group’s advice. Today, in much the same way, many folks rely on user comments such as the gold star reviews on Amazon.com. How do we know that (fill in the blank) is well made, will work as expected, and worth spending our hard earned money on? Does this thing have a good reputation?
Welcome to Lambchow’s series called reThink48. For the past few weeks, we’ve been considering the various traits listed by Paul in Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, NASB95) As we examine each attribute, the focus is on intentionally looking for it instead of only using the attribute as a kind of filter for what not to look at. Our focus today is “whatever is of good repute.”
In many ways, “whatever is of good repute” is like a jar or container. Reputation can consider many different angles and variables such as truthful, faithful, accurate, solid, valuable, enjoyable, of good value, well made, great service, as advertised, and knowledgeable. There are several considerations at hand to Paul’s direction to “dwell on whatever is of good repute.”
On the one hand is the report itself. Is it a report of good. Some attribute where the person or thing in question really shines. Some event where someone or something performed beyond expectations. That positive acknowledgment is the baseline “good report.”
But there are also other things to consider. Is the reporter to be believed? Are they accurate in their reporting? Do they have an agenda or side motive for the good report? How are they coloring the report with their own feelings and bias? Similarly, the hearer can also color the report. It may be a truthful offering that is rejected or doubted because of their own feelings or biases.
A Bad Report
During this series, we often look at the opposite or inverse of the attribute to gain understanding. Consider it to be a contrasting color that makes something else more visible.
When we consider the opposite of “good repute” there are two major points. The first is a truly bad report. “This thing doesn’t work, if I could give it zero stars, I would.” Knowing that something doesn’t work or that someone lacks the skills for a particular problem is valuable information.
The second point is the truly bad report. Call it the unfaithful report that is untruthful at its root. We see this sometimes in gold star style ratings when a competitor leaves a bad review to cause doubt and damage. Or the “trolls” that intentionally leave extremely negative comments on Social Media simply to provoke an angry response.
The Trap of Unbelief
The danger of the truly bad report are the seeds of unbelief it plants. Can we trust anything that is reported? One way or another we doubt, whether we doubt the initial claim or the bad report refuting it. We then don’t buy the product, we don’t engage in a conversation, we color our relationship with someone based on a false report, we don’t take that step of faith, we grow in doubt perhaps to the point of reaping a harvest of being cynical about everything.
Benefits of a Good Report
On the other side of the coin, the harvest of dwelling on whatever is of a good repute is faith. For example John wrote in his gospel, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30–31, NASB95) John wrote a good report with the goal of growing belief and faith in Jesus.
When someone provides an accurate report of their experience, it grows our trust in them and our faith in the object of the report. Paul said that “faith comes by hearing.” That is true of many things from washing machines to a prospective employee to a new friend. It is exceptionally true of growing in Christ.
Critical Thinking is a kind of buzz word today. For followers of Jesus, a better term would be discerned hearing. Jesus taught us, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16, NASB95) When we hear or see something, we must be discerning. Is the report accurate? Do I trust the source? Is there an agenda in play? Am I biased in this area? Am I being too gullible? Am I being too cynical? Too often followers of Jesus fall for, and repeat lies designed to make them look like fools. This has only gotten worse in the era of Facebook and text messages.
Often we need to look behind the report, chase the thread so to speak. We may trust the person that shared that tidbit about something someone said or did, but what about their source? We are rarely privileged to hear a first-hand account and are often dozens of shares away from the original. This calls for discerned hearing.
But we also need to discern our own heart. We often create reports about someone based on past experiences that are false. Our created reports often twist facts and events to assume something about someone’s intentions and attitudes. They may do something marvelous, but we only see the supposed wrong motive behind it. We become the false reporters leading to doubt and unbelief.
Dwelling on Whatever is of Good Repute
I think that Jesus’ well-known instruction to remove the log in our own eyes first is fitting. Before we can consider a good or bad report we must remove or at least recognize our own bias. That log could have been created by a bad experience and is held in place by unforgiveness. That log could be the result of false reports from others or from our self-centeredness and sin.
Perhaps the best instruction comes from Paul, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NASB95) That includes the juicy bits we read on Facebook, the text messages that come our way, the news reported by a friend or some talking head on TV, even what you read here on Lambchow. Dwelling on whatever is of a good repute requires wise and Spirit-led discernment.