A few years back I was part of some pretty wild politics in our presbytery. Accusations were tossed to and fro’, relationships were hurt, the place was a mess. Long story short, some of us felt like there were some actions being taken that were unjust, we organized and we were able to have some decisions made that I still feel were painful but for the best for the long-term health of the Presbytery.
One of the main accusations leveled at us was that some of us were acting as some kind of "mafia" called together to defend one of the folks involved. We were accused of acting out of some kind of loyalty to one person to the detriment of the whole. Sorry to disappoint the conspiracy theorists in the house, but none of it is true. We were grown ups and could organize all on our own 😉 And while time will only tell whether our actions were just and appropriate, this idea of loyalty seems to be an important one.
I have always considered myself a pretty loyal person. If you have my loyalty, I will stand with you, I will fight for you, I will support you, I will be honest with you and I will be your friend. I will even go to "battle" for you if I think you have been or are being wronged. There are not many people to whom I consider myself loyal. I don’t think this is bad. In fact I think Jesus was quite the loyal person and modeled a healthy loyalty to God and calling that we can all learn from.
Loyalty does not mean blind devotion, however. Nor is loyalty something you can demand, assume or even request. Well, I guess you could, but as the saying goes, "If you have to ask . . ." Loyalty to anything, God, family, friends is a choice that I make. I decide where my loyalty lies, how it will be lived out, when I need to pledge it.
Unlike past generations and systems, loyalty was assumed based on a great many things: gender, ethnicity, politics, pedigree, etc. One could assume that if we are both Asian or liberal or wealthy we would vote the same way, stand together on the same issues, etc. Whether or not those days really did exist to any effective ends, those days are no longer here.
I have made the mistake of assuming party line loyalty far too often to fall into that trap. I have also been accused of not following the party line to often to put others in that position.
Loyalty is much less defined these days, much less dogmatic and much more nuanced. And just like understanding the nuances and complexities of faith is our relationship with God made stronger, a nuanced understanding of personal relationships is made real in personal devotion and loyalty.
What I hope to give voice and a life to is a loyalty that must be earned. Earned through relationships nurtured, integrity lived out and faithfulness to God made evident. My loyalty is given because a person has earned it through the life they lead. A life that I feel compelled to support, to nurture and to hold accountable.
In the end loyalty is an expression of my understanding of God through my relationship with you. And for that I am thankful!