Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Christian Loyalty Club

Loyalty is generally seen as a good trait.  Husbands and wives are supposed to remain loyal to one another.  Friends hold loyalty in high regard.  Employers seek loyal employees.  Businesses like to reward loyal customers.  It is very evident that loyalty is considered a virtue, but is the world's view of loyalty a correct one?  As is usually the case, the world is wrong.  Loyalty with one exception can easily become an idol.  The only loyalty we are called to is loyalty to God. 
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  Matthew 6:24 NKJV
I know many like to focus on the application of the principle as presented by Jesus, but let's look at the principle itself.  What I mean is that Jesus says you can not serve God and money, but He bases that on the more general principle of not being able to serve two masters.  This holds true not just in terms of God and mammon, but it holds true in God and anything else.  You can not serve anything else and serve God.  You can not have competing masters or competing loyalties.  One must be your true loyalty and everything else seen in that context.  For us, as Christians, we must be loyal to God first and only in that context do we have any other loyalties.  What I mean is that anything we have loyalty to in this world must only be because that loyalty is an expression of our loyalty to God.  Anything else is idolatry. 

The first example I gave in my opening is marriage.  That is a perfect example of a situation where we are loyal because it is an expression of our loyalty to God.  God hates divorce.  God tells wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  Being loyal to God means actively seeking to fulfill our roles and to remain committed through good times and bad.  Marriages based on loyalty to spouse or self often result in divorce.  In fact, I will make the claim that the high divorce rate in America and (just as bad if not worse) divorce rate among those calling themselves Christians reflect our church's and our nation's abysmal level of loyalty to God.  With the exception of adultery, no husband or wife can say that they are loyal to God while seeking a divorce.  The only reason that adultery is even an exception is because the offending spouse has already severed the bonds of marriage by their actions.  Therefore, an adulterer can also in no way claim loyalty to God. 

Marriage is simple and clear cut, it is other relationships where conflicting loyalties often come into play.  Many people think they can be loyal to a friend or family member and be loyal to God.  This only works if being loyal to that friend always means being loyal to God.  First let's look at being loyal to a friend.  Friends love loyal friends, but that loyalty often comes into conflict with loyalty to God.  Are you a good friend if you comfort and encourage them in their sin?  Are you a loyal friend if you go out drinking with your friend and the both of you have a good time in sin together?  The world may tell you that you are a great friend, but the Bible would tell you differently.  You see, it is our loyalty to God that must define what it even means to be loyal to a friend.  God wants us to be loyal friends, but not in how we might define loyalty.  God wants us to share the truth with our friends.  If you have a friend caught up in sin or heading on the road to eternal Hell, being a loyal friend does not mean allowing your friend down that path without a fight.  Being a loyal friend means sharing the truth, in love, even if that means harming that relationship.  I see too many instances where friendship is placed higher than truth where even Christians will support and condone and even facilitate a friend who is in sin or who has not even accepted Jesus.  Think about it, if you had to choose a friendship with your friend or your friend being saved, what would you choose?  If you answer that your friend's soul is more important, do your actions reflect that as reality?   

This very same principle applies as much to family as it does to friends.  I am not speaking of wives or unmarried children where there is specific scriptural direction, but I am talking about everyone else.  If you are married or grown, then I am even speaking of your parents.  Families often put strict loyalty standards on each other.  Whether it be pressured visits, attendance at certain events, where you live, and even where you work and worship.  For some families, everything revolves around the family, even their faith.  Faith, or even its expression, should never revolve around family.  That is putting another loyalty in conflict with your ultimate loyalty to God.   Family is important, but God is more important and following His direction for our lives comes before all else.  God must always come first and be our one and only loyalty.  Loyalty, even to family, must be defined in context of our loyalty to God. 

The final loyalty I want to talk about today is perhaps the most ridiculous, and that is loyalty to a brand.  By this I mean where we shop, where we work, and even where we go to church.  I know that last one may ruffle some feathers, but the fact is that we should be loyal to none of these outside our primary loyalty to God.  God can ask us to leave any or all of these at any time and we must be prepared to act on His direction.  If you want a Ford and God asks you to get a Chevy, then you need to get the Chevy.  If you love your job and you make a lot of money and have amazing benefits, and God asks you to give it all up to move to another place and start all over again, our loyalty needs to be to God.  If you are in a church and have great friends and family that also attend, but the doctrine and direction seems to be lacking and God is telling you to move elsewhere (or even if that is not happening and God asks you to move elsewhere) then we must trust His plan over our own desires. 

The point I am making is that loyalty must be only to God, otherwise other things will inevitably get in the way.  Anything that gets in the way of God is an idol.  This can be family, friends, our own desires, church, employment, houses, cars, money, and really anything else that is not God.  There is only one God and it is only to that one God that we are to pledge our loyalty.  Jesus said it plainly, you can not serve two masters.  Serve God and everything else will fall into line.  The fact is that this is a complex and confusing life we live full of complex and ever-changing relationships.  Many will try to secure and test our loyalties and at times it can be very confusing as we try to figure out how to reconcile conflicts.    The thing is, if you are only loyal to God you do not need to worry about the rest.  Life has a way of working out when your loyalty is only to the One who can make it all work out.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

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