I hope that you’ve been following along, and that you now agree that actually, what people think of us matters a whole lot.
But what people think matters on two distinct levels. The first and most basic level is our Identity. No, we shouldn’t let people DEFINE us, but we should pay careful attention to how they DESCRIBE us. We’re all projecting something, and that something is being interpreted by people around us. If people you as an angry, bitter person, you just might be. Or if the folks around you believe you’re gifted at something, you probably are. They aren’t defining you, they’re describing you. Ignoring them is foolish to say the least.
The second level is about our Impact. All of us make an impression, and Jesus wants to make sure his followers are making positive ones. The bottom line, like it or not, is that your impact on the world is shaped largely by how people see you. Good intentions can get buried by conflicting body language, tone of voice, agressiveness, or a thousand other blind spots we’re totally unaware of.
As the saying goes, when it comes to describing something, a triangle is formed by your side, my side, and the truth. We each have our own corner (interpretation) of something, but only one person owns the corner on truth, and his name is Jesus.
Only Jesus sees us, and things, the way we really are. Only he can sift through the convoluted layers of pretense, motives, and sinfulness to arrive at pure, objective truth. Only he can show us what weight to give what we think of ourselves, what others think of us, and what experience has taught us.
The most important thing, then, is not what I think or you think, but what Jesus thinks. He doesn’t ignore the other two corners of the triangle; he moderates them. Without Jesus as the third (and different) point, all you’d have is two dots on a line. See?
How can we know what Jesus thinks of us, how he would describe us, who he thinks we are deep inside? Other than the basic and universal descriptions like “child of God,” “light of the world” and “disciple”—which apply to everyone who gives their lives to love and follow him, only a conversation of obedience with God unfolding throughout a life lived for him will yield the answer. There are moments of clarity, special times when his words are especially clear. Praise God for those times.
But mostly, our identity is found piece by piece strewn here and there throughout the trenches of life, discovered and treasured one at a time.