A Simul and a Cross
On the hill of Golgotha stood the cross that changed human history. Jesus, the Truth, bore the punishment for all the sins of His people. In that great act, Jesus declared us unable to save ourselves even as He simultaneously proclaimed Himself to be utterly able to save us. Now, as Christians, we have a new identity, described in the Latin phrase simul justus et peccator. As Christians, we simultaneously are justified before God by the imputed righteousness of Christ and we also continue to sin, even as we look to God for grace. This simul affects our reputation. As we are in Christ, we are perfect, sinless, and beloved of God. As we are growing in holiness, we are accomplishing good works, virtuous works, reputation-building works. As there is remaining sin, our reputations will be pocked with the blemishes of divine rebellion. How, then, do we guard the good name of our neighbor on this side of the cross? The ninth commandment sets three guards as we defend the reputation of another believer.
The Three Guards
We post our first guard when we determine to speak well of fellow Christians as we see God grow them in holiness through the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Christians were made for good works. God gets all the glory for these good works, as it is the result of His willing and doing, but good works also contribute to a Christian’s good name, his reputation. So, when you see a brother or sister growing in good works, obey the ninth commandment and say something to him or her and others about it.
We post our second guard when we refuse to give or receive gossip or slander about a brother. Even Christians, at times, sin by spreading lies or refusing to confront untruths about another believer. These lies can unjustly damage the reputation of a fellow believer. So, when you hear a brother or sister gossiping or being gossiped about, slandering or being slandered, obey the ninth commandment by confronting it, refusing to believe it, and not participating in it.
We post our third guard when we set the expectation that Christians will both sin and repent of sin. Speaking well of a fellow believer does not mean we assume he does not sin but quite the opposite. Our reputations will reflect much of the remaining sin that we hate. Christians will have reputations for being short-tempered or, at times, fearful of men. These aren’t patterns of sin that we tolerate. Instead, we hate them. But it also affects how we speak of one another. To say that a brother is prone to outbursts of anger but hates it, is repenting of it, and is looking to Christ for mercy shows his excellent reputation of fighting sin and living by faith. He is a real sinner depending on a real Savior. Sinless perfection isn’t a part of any Christian’s reputation . . . yet.