Loyalty — noun; the quality of being loyal.
Loyal — adjective; giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution.
Dictionary definitions of words are interesting: we often use words like this but never really think carefully what they mean. Loyalty is a small word but has huge importance, especially if we aim to be leaders in the church. Historically, loyalty has been a very important thing. In the Middle Ages the whole system of civil society was based upon the Feudal System, where a man obtained his status from loyalty to his superior, from whom he would hold his lands and wealth. This loyalty was formalised through the taking of an oath. This follows the biblical principle of covenants. Covenants have fallen into disuse these days, although the marriage service still involves taking an oath and pledging faithfulness and loyalty to one’s spouse.
Society today is based upon free choice, not loyalty. Our shops give out ‘loyalty cards’, but people can easily choose not to be loyal to the shop and the card’s real purpose is to provide a way for the shop to track the shopper’s buying habits. We can see some of the consequences of disloyalty in the rising number of divorces. As Christians—and especially as leaders—we are called upon to live a life of loyalty, whatever the prevailing fashions in society.
Loyalty should be important to us because it is important to God. He promises us eternal life if we believe in Jesus (John 3:16). Our God is always true and does not change what He says. Have you ever thought what things would be like if God wasn’t loyal and did not always do what He said? We would not be able to trust in anything that God promised. Our faith would be worthless. But we can trust in the fact that God will never give up on us, no matter what kind of a mess we get ourselves into, just as we trust in God to be loyal. Therefore we should be people who are loyal to God, obey His words and follow His commands.
The apostle Paul gives us a great biblical example of loyalty. Originally known as Saul, he was a great persecutor of Christians and was present at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:1–8:1). Eventually he set out for Damascus to arrest and kill any believers he found there, but on the way Jesus appeared to him, and he became a Christian himself. This was a complete reversal in his attitude: from being a Pharisee to being a person loyal to Jesus. This did not come without personal cost. True loyalty always has a cost. As Jesus told Ananias, who went to see Saul soon afterwards:
But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’ (Acts 9:15-16, NIV)
Soon after his conversion (with his name changed to the Greek form, Paul) he started preaching the Gospel, and it was not very long before he had to flee from Damascus to save his life (Acts 9:23-25). This was not the end of the trials Paul faced because of his loyalty to Jesus. As Paul later explained in his letter to the Christians in Corinth:
‘I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.’ (2 Corinthians 11:23b-28, NLT)
Despite all these trials and tribulations, Paul remained loyal to Jesus and was martyred for his faith when Nero was emperor of Rome. The result of his loyalty was that the Gospel spread very quickly, many churches were formed, and many people were saved and added to the churches. Paul received the benefits of a reward from Jesus—the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:6-8)—and many other people were blessed because of his loyalty and steadfastness.
Where should we be loyal?
- Loyal to God. God created us and desires to have a relationship with us. We need to be loyal so that He can use us in His service, and so that He can bless us. If we break that relationship we are cutting ourselves off from the blessings He has for us.
- Loyal to our marriage partner. We must be faithful to the oath that we make in the marriage ceremony. It is easy to be attracted to other people but true happiness only comes through commitment and loyalty to our spouse. Allowing our loyalty to slip in this area is an invitation to disaster.
- Loyalty to church. The way that we serve God is through the local church that He has placed us in. Our loyalty must be to this church, and not to other churches or ministries that may come along and tempt us with possible opportunities for personal advancement. We should be concerned with the place that God has put us and how we can serve Him there, rather than considering our own ministries. If we put our church, and not our self, first, God will put us first, and blessings will come our way.
- Loyalty to each other. We are called to be in covenant relationship with each other, both in our families, in church, in work and in wider society. We will only reap the benefits of these relationships if we maintain our loyalty to them.
As leaders in the local church, we have a duty to demonstrate the principle of loyalty in the way that we live. People will see not only what we say but also what we do. We must be very careful that we make sure we are people of integrity. The true test of loyalty comes in the hard times, when things are difficult. In the face of a global pandemic we need to remain loyal in our service of our families and the church. We live in an age that does not value loyalty very greatly, but if we are to live as Christians then loyalty should be an integral part of our lives.
© 2020 Paul Goffin / Harvest City Church