"He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap" (1 Timothy 3:7, NIV).
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness" (Matthew 23:27-28, NIV).
Christians should be known for godly attitudes and actions. We should be known for kindness, compassion, courage, humility, love, joy, and many other positive qualities.
However, whether we are known for such qualities or not, we should live them. Our reputations may suffer for teaching the biblical truth about hot potato issues (like abortion, hell, homosexuality, etc.), but we must have the courage to teach the truth anyway. Our reputations may suffer for trying to help a friend caught in a sex scandal or abusing drugs, but we must show kindness and compassion anyway. Our reputations may suffer for confessing the sin of gossip and asking the victim for forgiveness, but we must live humbly anyway.
A few years ago, the Roman Catholic Church attempted to cover-up the widespread sexual abuse of children by its clergy. Concerned for its own reputation, the church slandered victims who spoke out against the abuse and denied all wrongdoing. In trying to save its reputation, it nearly destroyed its credibility.
What happened in the Roman Catholic Church a few years ago happens among denominations, congregations, and individuals constantly. Everyone is vulnerable to the temptation to place reputation above righteousness, but Jesus Christ calls his followers to a higher standard. The man with a reputation as a friend of sinners would rather see us risk our reputations to be good, rather than to merely look good.