Sunday, July 6, 2014


Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. (Philippians 3:7-9)

Rarely do people return from long journeys to find they are completely the same as when they left. On his journey There and Back Again, Bilbo Baggins discovers courage, faith, resourcefulness, and friendship. He brings back to Hobbiton a great deal of treasure as well. But after the dust settles and most Hobbits are satisfied that he is not, in fact, dead, and after the auctioned-off furniture is repurchased and his sword is hung over the mantle, there is something else different about him:

Indeed Bilbo found he had lost more than spoons - he had lost his reputation. It is true that for ever after he remained an elf-friend, and had the honour of dwarves, wizards, and all such folk as ever passed that way; but he was no longer quite respectable. He was in fact held by all the hobbits of the neighborhood to be 'queer' - except by his nephews and nieces on the Took side, but even they were not encouraged in their friendship by their elders.

Some people set great store by reputation, both their own and others’. But really, isn’t reputation, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? Tolkien tells us that in general, Hobbits set great store by being stodgy homebodies, predictable in every way, so by those standards Bilbo has lost his reputation. Yet one Hobbit’s dodgy reputation as one who goes on adventures with dwarves (oh, the horror!) is another person’s set of admirable personality traits, to be admired and emulated.

Paul recognized this as well, and said as much to the Philippians. The things the world values are trash in the eyes of Christ, but if his reputation because of his faith is trashy in the eyes of the world, well, so be it, because the world’s opinion is not the one that really counts. Besides, I rather like the sound of “queer old elf-friend,” don’t you?

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