I want to defend myself and not be misunderstood. How about you? Can we believe that God wants to protect our reputations—that Jesus "has our back"? Tweet That!
I remember many years ago when I was scheduled to speak at a mom's group at a major church. I then received a call from the Director of Women's Ministries of that church and she explained that they had realized that I was a retreat speaker. She wanted to "save" me to speak at their women's retreat instead of having me speak at the mom's group. I could see their reasoning but I would have preferred doing both (though I didn't say it). She closed the conversation saying she would call back when they were ready to schedule me for their women's retreat. I sensed something more was going on, but I couldn't think of any appropriate way to ask. We said goodbye and somehow I sensed I'd never hear from her again. I didn't.
My fears about my reputation started haunting me. All sorts of fears went through my mind. Had they heard some lie about me that had besmirched my reputation? Was there another Kathy Miller who had divorced her husband and they thought that was me? Had someone said something was bad about my speaking? Did they disagree with something I'd said in one of my books? Would they talk about me to other churches? All sorts of things haunted me.
The situation seemed totally out of my control. I debated whether I should call her back and try to ask what was really going on. But I hate confrontation and I fear saying the wrong thing that might make things even worse. I know that is one of my weaknesses and a more assertive person might make such a call easily. But I couldn't figure out what I would even say. Should I say, "What have you heard about me?"
I ended up only praying about the situation. Whether God wanted me to say or do more, I couldn't clearly decide, but I did know God was in control and would "cover my back."
That's one of the many messages we could receive from the passage of Matthew 11. John the Baptist is imprisoned and hears about Jesus' activities. He sends his disciples to inquire of Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” The problem is they ask in front of the crowd who is gathered to hear Jesus. And the conversation is not really very complementary about John. The questions of John's disciples could come across as John not having the faith to believe Jesus is the Messiah.
Then the best thing happens. Jesus defends John. The passage tells us: "As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: 'What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind?... Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!'" (Matthew 11:7,11 NASB).
Jesus defends John to the crowd. He "has John's back." He doesn't want the crowd to think ill of John because of the gentle rebuke Jesus had told John's disciples to pass along to John. The "rebuke" was,
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." (Matthew 11:4-6).When you think your reputation is in danger, know that Jesus can "cover your back." He can defend you. Jesus will not leave you defenseless. Tweet That! You may not even be there as John was not there to defend himself.
I think there are several reasons Jesus defended John the Baptist publicly and verbally:
1. To defend the integrity of John's reputation so that the crowd wouldn't think ill of him.
2. To defend the integrity of John's reputation so that those who listened to him and believed would not have their faith diminished.
3. To give John's enemies less fuel to attack John's reputation and ministry.
4. To prevent people from thinking less of John's God as if God couldn't "keep" him strong in his faith.
5. To teach people that a person can fluctuate in their faith and it doesn't mean they've lost their faith.
Jesus' protected John's reputation. Even now, after so many years, the thought of the way Jesus protected John comforts me. I think of that situation about the speaking engagement and I tell myself, "Jesus knew the situation and what caused the reversal. For whatever reason, He choose not to allow me to know or to change the result. I must trust in that."
There might be times when we will speak up because God wants us to defend ourselves. Other times, we must trust that, like He did with John, He will defend us without our involvement.
Are you facing the fear, worry, or concern of your reputation being maligned? Or maybe you don't know if it's happening—but you wonder? You and I can trust whatever Jesus decides to do. He has our back!