3-4 Don't lose your grip on Love and Loyalty. Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart. Earn a reputation for living well in God's eyes and the eyes of the people.
(Proverbs 3:3-4 The Message)
We "earn" a reputation - it is not given to us! We gain it by the various ways we behave, things we say/don't say, etc. We are reminded today of the need to "earn" a reputation for living well in God's eyes - and in turn, the eyes of the people around us. Well, I never thought about "earning" my reputation in God's eyes before. In fact, I kind of relied on my reputation being what God saw when he looked at me through the eyes of Jesus!
This is not an invalid perception - God DOES see me as he sees Jesus. He sees me through the sacrifice of Christ as a new creation, redeemed, made whole and holy. Yet, he looks for evidence of a life-change - the very stuff which makes up a reputation! In other words, God wants to see my actions reflect his grace, my attitude reflect his love, and my commitment reflect his tremendous loyalty toward me!
I cannot think of any particular "thing" we can do which lends to what God has done in our lives by his grace - but I can think of a whole lot of ways we can "reflect" this grace to a hurting world around us! When others look at our response to trial, do they see our commitment to remain steadfast in our faith, or a wavering and inconsistent faith? When they see our response to unkind words, do they see a reflection of God's love by our "release" of our offender, or our own desire to "get even" with the one who has offended us?
Look at how God asks us to gain a reputation - by never losing our grip on love and loyalty. As we consider this important point, we cannot discount the next portion of the passage as the "how-to" which lends to the means of never losing our grip. He says it is in how well we allow God's love to "engrave" our hearts and how close we keep him in our day's activities. Something which is bound around our neck is always close at hand. I wear a small silver chain with a little dove on it around my neck. This was a gift from my daughter, but it really reminds me of the fact I am never without the Spirit of God in my life - close to my heart, guiding my actions, influencing my choices.
You don't have to wear a necklace to "bind love and loyalty" around your neck. It is symbolic of the closeness we need to maintain to God's Word, his Spirit, and the protection both provide in our daily walk. Why the neck? In connects the heart to the mind. Neither is able to stand alone. Cut the brain off from the supply of oxygen and blood from the heart and lungs and it is not able to function. Cut the brain off and the heart and lungs are useless organs no longer able to sustain life. So, God's Word and his Spirit "tie together" the mind and the heart - so each functions well, responds consistently, and can be relied upon to not mis-direct the rest of our body!
Maybe it is time to "overhaul" our reputation a little. We begin by "binding" the right stuff in the very middle of what gives us the greatest trouble with our reputation - our heart and our mind!