Despite the counsel of the New Testament it is hard not to be conformed to this world—especially in what has come to be known in advertising circles as image building. Motivational research is now an industry of its own, employing techniques derived from psychiatry and offering in turn advice on how to present wares most attractively.
The image is all-important. According to this gospel, what sells an article—
whether it be a cake of soap or a pair of stockings—is the image which speaks to the prospective buyer. Given the right image all things are possible.
The premise admitted, it is not a far cry to the deduction that a man’s image can sell (or ruin) the man. But should image be our first concern?
We should remind ourselves that our fathers in the faith were not overmuch concerned about their image. If they had been, they would never have broken with the conventional religious practices of their day. They would never have set Great Britain by the ears had they kept one eye continually on the current public opinion polls. As for image, some of them in the most literal fashion made themselves of no reputation.
“Bramwell,” said the Founder, “50 years hence it will matter very little indeed how these people have treated us. It will matter a great deal how we dealt with the work of God.” So memorable a word puts this concern for image building in its place once and for all. Take care of the reality and the image will take care of itself.
A study of the model relationship between image and reality is found in Hebrews 1:3 where Jesus is described as “the exact representation of [God’s] being.” Here image and reality agree. Image is not a cunningly devised fable to hide the poverty of reality. Nor does reality need to be blown up to correspond with a larger than life image. What is found in the one is present in the other.
Hear the conclusion of the whole matter in a sentence written by William Booth: “Don’t allow the world’s praise to attract, or its blame to affright you from the discharge of the duty you owe to God, to yourself, or to the souls of those about you. God will take care of your reputation if you make His glory and your duty your sovereign aim.”
Frederick Coutts, In Good Company