Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the most loyal people in the world are only loyal to the concept of loyalty, but aren’t actually loyal in word or deed?
Now I’m aware that the title of this post will raise a lot of hackles. So before you get too alarmed, I must confess that it’s not entirely true (yeah, yeah, I totally linkbaited you). However – there is a kind of loyalty that is sin. And that is what I hope to address in this final instalment of the series. A sort of postscript, as it were.
So let’s get our stories straight. What does it mean to be loyal in the truest sense? Webster’s online dictionary defines it like this:
| adjective | loy·al \ˈlȯi(-ə)l\
Definition: having or showing complete and constant support for someone or something.
1.Unswerving in allegiance: as
a : faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign or government
b : faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due
c : faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product
Okay.Showing complete, constant, and unswerving support and allegiance to someone or something. We will roll with this statement.
Friendships require commitment, it’s true. Loyalty to a person; showing constant support for them and being faithful to them through thick and thin is an admirable quality. All friendships benefit from the presence of loyalty. It carries people through trials and tribulations; it builds character and love, it teaches us to die to ourselves and put others first, and is all the while an incredible example of God’s own faithfulness to us. In a worldly culture that is very temporary and fleeting, this trait is sorely lacking and dearly precious when it is found. Knowing that it doesn’t matter how much time passes, or what water goes under the bridge that you are still able to pick up the phone or go out for coffee and nothing has changed between you and a friend is one of the best experiences in the world.
However loyalty does have a dark side.
As we are all human,
occasionally often we mess up. As I’m sure you know by now,
we live in a fallen world where not everything goes as perfectly as we expect
it to. There is death, and pain and suffering. There are broken hearts, betrayals,
and deceptions, and wherever these sad things occur, usually they affect more
than one person. And it is here that a lie that looks a lot like loyalty slips
into the mix. It is not real loyalty. It is false loyalty. We buy into its lie
that instead of loyalty being something available to everyone you love, it is mutually
exclusive, ie. you cannot be loyal to one friend, without hating the people
that friend hates, even if one or some of those people are your own friends.
False loyalty demands you take sides, and this is the sin.
How can we claim to be loyal to our friends if we must betray one in order to support the other when confrontations arise? I have seen this over, and over again. As soon as one friend makes a foul against another, all of the mutual friends rally behind their choice and spit poisonous venom at the opposing side and call it loyalty. How in the name of all that is holy did this become something to be praised and exalted? People pride themselves to the point where they will slander any and everyone who says anything against their friends, and say they do it all in the name of loyalty. What a crock. Now I’m not denying that when arguments break out that there isn’t a right or wrong. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time where conflict arises as a result of people’s evil words and deeds. However if we are only going to love the people who do and say the right thing to our friends and us, we are demanding that they be perfect before we accept them, and anything less than that brands them as our enemies. We give and take our love all based on a person’s performance and call it loyalty. This is wrong.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” – Matthew 5:43-47
Note this: you do not have to be loyal in order to love (I can hear someone’s mind being blown somewhere). Love is not fealty (Definition: sworn loyalty). As Christians, we owe everyone love, but only fealty to One. We are called to love no matter whose friend or enemy they are.
“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8
Also note this: you can be loyal to love and support people even if you aren’t “on their side”. It is possible to be available for your friends, your enemies, AND your friends’ enemies. Have you ever noticed how Jesus died not only for His twelve followers who stuck by him for three solid years, but for the very people who crucified Him? He forgave them both equally.
Loyalty in terms of friendship does not mean destroying the majority to save the minority. It does not mean you stay close to one and forsake all others. Loyalty does not mean you love some and hate the rest. Loyalty does not mean that in your support of one friend, you are withdrawing support from another. Loyalty does not mean that in order to support a friend, you must withdraw your support from another. Loyalty in this sense belongs to God alone - you swear fealty to Him, and to no other. Choosing to be loyal to a person means choosing to love them regardless of what they do.
This means you shouldn't blindly give away your loyalty to just anyone. It’s important to get to know people before you entrust them with your valuables, and you should be wise in discerning whether or not they are mature enough to take care of what you give them. However loyalty should not be a bargaining chip between two sides. It should be a personal thing between the giver and the receiver, not a decision reached by way of comparison between one’s friends and enemies. It should be earned, given, or taken away based solely on what transpires between two people, and those two people only. In spite of how it is earned, loyalty is still much like love. It can be given freely without being earned. So based on the definition of the world, wouldn’t you agree that we should think carefully about who we give our full, constant, and unswerving allegiance to? Don’t you think that placing it in a fallen human is a bit of a risky thing to do? If you take some time to ponder this definition deeply, doesn’t it stand to reason that true loyalty should only be reserved for One Person – namely, God? Isn’t He the only one worth of our unwavering devotion? Though our love for others should be unconditional, shouldn’t we put greater emphasis on just what it is to be loyal, and choose our loyalties more wisely?
“If one is loyal to a good cause gone bad, it is time to cease being loyal. This is not disloyalty for one to consider their morale status over loyalty to something that is contrary to what they uphold and believe in. Yes be loyal, but know always what it is you are being loyal to. People, places, and things, are always subject to change.”
“A better way to live instead of being loyal is to be honest. Honesty will do everything that loyalty can do for you and even more. Rather than being 'loyal' to your wedding vows, be honest to them. You took them, now honor them. Rather than being 'loyal' to your job, being honest to your job. You got hired, now do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.” – Comments from Debate.org.
If you cannot be loyal without being loving, you are not being loyal. You cannot be loyal to someone and unloving to someone else as a direct result. To be truly loyal, love must support it. So this means you can have two friends in the middle of a big fight, and still be loyal to both of them, loving them through their differences. You do not have to choose, and they should not make you. The fact you are loyal to them both should not change the love you have for either of them. We live in a world where it is inevitable that we will hurt each other, but this doesn’t mean we must stop loving, or that we should be loyal to the point we are choosing who to love and who to hate based on which people love or hate each other. We do not need to base whether or not we love someone on the conditions of others. You can choose not to be run by their expectations, but instead choose to live in the way Jesus modelled for us: love your friends, and love your friends’ enemies too. Both of them Jesus died for, and Jesus is the one we ultimately swear our loyalty to. Yes, there will be situations where trusts are broken, and friends must part ways, and yes it will be hard seeing others befriend someone who betrayed you. But if Jesus could die for the whole world whilst it still hated Him… how much more should we not let false loyalty get in the way of us loving even those who betray us? Food for thought.