One of the great things about following Jesus is that it relieves the pressure for us to be burdened by pleasing people. That is not to say Christians don’t struggle with wanting to make people happy or don’t care what people think; it still happens when we lose focus of what is ultimately important.
This does not mean that our reputation does not matter however. Faithfully following Jesus should cause people to view you as loving, forgiving, generous, etc. But this also means that there are many things we do and believe that are different than the majority of culture. With this brings disfavor among others.
Holding to certain biblical morals is certainly unpopular, and submitting your life to God rather than all of your own desires is very difficult. And if your goal is to please people, it becomes impossible. But that doesn’t mean our reputation should be of no concern.
So how does living for God’s approval but yet caring about our reputation work?
This is the way I look at it: I want those who personally know me to have a positive view of my character and heart. Because following Jesus should result in living with integrity. But on the other hand, if someone views me negatively because of a Biblical belief or because I live out those beliefs then I do not care. I am much more concerned about God’s approval than peoples.
This is why I only concern myself with what those who actually know me think about my character. For example, as a Christian, I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Many people who disagree with this perspective think my belief makes me a bigot. It would concern me if someone who actually knew me and disagreed with me on this issue thought I was a bigot. But even then, aim is not to seek the approval of people.
In the words of the apostle Paul,
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Also as a side note, the saying “only God can judge me” is not an excuse to live however you personally please. While I would agree that God’s judgment is the only one that ultimately matters, this should strike a holy fear in us, which is the total opposite of making us think we can get away with anything we choose to do.
In closing, even when people say or think poorly of you (rightly or wrongly), we are all sinners in need of God’s grace more than we know. Charles Spurgeon said it best,
If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.