Loyalty is a virtue that is often in short supply these days. Over the past twenty-five years, for example, loyalty in the workplace as I have seen it has fallen off dramatically. Through two deep recessions, many employers quickly dismissed people who had been loyal to them for many years. Many employees in turn are now more likely to leave for apparently greener pastures at the earliest opportunity.

Other areas are hard hit too. We all know what has happened to loyalty in many marriages. We see governments quickly renege on promises . One study of patriotism notes that now people are more loyal to their own interest groups than to their countries. It is common for people today to “shop” churches and move from place to place when things don’t make them feel good. Loyalty through thick and thin is just not that popular anymore.

It’s not as if disloyalty is a new thing. In the wonderful book of Hosea which has a lot to say about loyalty, God makes this amazing observation about the loyalty of His people:

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
For your loyalty is like a morning cloud,
And like the dew which goes away early.
This kind of loyalty evaporates quickly like early morning dew and blows away like a cloud. It is a fair weather loyalty. In the New Testament Jesus’ closest friends forsook Him. When he most needed their support, “all the disciples left Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56). Demas and “all who are in Asia” deserted and turned away from Paul (2 Timothy 4:10; 1:15). “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?” What shall we do?

God has taken several measures to help us with the problem of disloyalty. He has proven Himself loyal. He was loyal to His people when they least deserved it. God is the best example of loyalty. Israel and several of the churches of Asia were less than fully loyal, but God, with His prophets, reached out to them and encouraged them to reinstate their loyalty, “Come, let us return to the LORD” (Hosea 6:1). He gives us examples of loyal relationships: David and Jonathan, Abraham and Sarah, Ruth and Naomi. All faced difficult times when it would have been easier to let the relationships dissolve in disloyalty, but they stuck together. They were loyal to one another.

God has let us in on His perspective on loyalty:

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

God has said that he “delights” in loyalty and the “knowledge of God” (Hosea 6:6). Loyalty pleases Him. In staying loyal to God we have the knowledge that He is happy about our faithfulness. We need to grab on to this promise, let it sink into our minds and hearts, and let it encourage us when we are tempted to pack it in.

Nowhere is God’s loyalty more plain than in Jesus’ death on the cross. From the cross, Jesus looked down at God’s disloyal people and said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Amazingly, because of Jesus’ loyalty on an instrument of torture and death, the cross has become the point where death ends and life begins. We begin our new life in Christ by dying with Him.

Paul writes this beautiful “trustworthy statement” to encourage Timothy to be loyal to God in tough times:

For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him;
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful;
for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:11-13).
Dying with Christ in the waters of immersion (Romans 6:3-11) and bearing with Him through struggles by faith entitles us to live with Him. Enduring entitles us to reign with Him. According to Bauer’s lexicon, enduring involves “staying in a place beyond an expected time,” to “stand one’s ground,” “to wait with persistence.” Reigning comes from the same root word as king. What a privilege to reign jointly with Jesus!

God has proven He is faithful to us. If we deny Jesus, however, He denies us. Disloyalty may separate us from God, but He cannot deny Himself and be unfaithful to His promises because His character is completely faithful, completely loyal to His goals. At the centre of His promises is the resurrection of Jesus who stayed loyal to God through life and death. He could do this knowing that God was there to receive His spirit and welcome Him into joy on the other side of the cross. His death and resurrection became the foundation of forgiveness and eternal life. Paul begs Timothy and us to remember these things and endure, to stay loyal (2 Timothy 2:13; 4:5).

Loyalty to Christ is something that should never change once we have found Him. In the words of the hymn, “To Christ be loyal and be true.” The “knowledge of God” and His promises can help us see beyond immediate difficulties. His Word builds faith and loyalty. His loyalty as we see it through the cross can empower us to stay loyal in tough times. It can permeate our relationships, strengthen our marriages, and our churches. It can help us die and endure with him and so live and reign with Him. Our loyalty can bring God delight!

Paul Birston

April 2005©

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