The Forgotten Virtue of Loyalty

I love ice cream. I consider it one of the basic food groups. My favorite ice cream is Mayfield’s Mint Chocolate Chip. At least it was my favorite until the day I betrayed Mayfield and pick up a tub of Blue Bell Mint Chocolate ice cream. You see, I have always been loyal to Mayfield ice creams because they were a part of the community were I resided. I would take my children to the Mayfield Dairy on Thursday’s in the summer and get twenty-five-cent scoops. The elementary school would go on field trips to the dairy and see firsthand the creation of ice cream. By the time a child got into the fifth grade they could tell you by rote memory the process of ice cream development. Mayfield was my brand. I had no clue how other mint chocolate chip ice cream tasted. I just knew Mayfield had it and it was good.

Back last summer the grocery store was out of Mayfield’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and I was in need of my ice cream fix. I gave into temptation and broke loyalty and purchased Blue Bell ice cream. Oh, my goodness, I did not know that mint chocolate chip ice cream could taste so good. I am sorry Mayfield but Blue Bell has seduced my taste buds.

We all have brand loyalty. A certain pair of jeans fit just right and we would not consider the competitor brand. We have our favorite toothpaste. We would not think of switching soft drinks. We are either PC or Apple fanatics. And our heart belongs to a particular brand of shoes.

Marketers call this brand loyalty. They know that we are creatures of habit and if they can win us to their side then the potential is there for having us as lifetime customers. A lot of money goes into building brand loyalty.

We know loyalty runs deeper and has a more lasting impact when it involves relationships. If I asked, “Do you consider yourself a loyal person” most of us would answer in the affirmative. Who wants to be considered as disloyal? We regard ourselves loyal and yet the world is filled with disloyalty. Friends are betraying friends. Politicians are ignoring commitments. Spouses are cheating on one another. Employees are stealing from employers. Secrets that were told in confidence are being told behind backs. If we consider ourselves as loyal people, then who is committing all these disloyal acts? Asking are we loyal or disloyal is asking the wrong question. The question is who or what are we giving our loyalty?

In the Hebrew Bible the book of Daniel the main character is being asked to be disloyal to God. Some leaders in Babylon were jealous of the success that Daniel, the Jewish exile, was having with king Darius. They convince the king to sign a decree into law that states any person who prays to anyone besides the king should be thrown into a den of lions. The scripture says, “Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:10). The conspirators see Daniel praying, remind the king of his law and that it could not be broken, and they have Daniel thrown into the lion’s den. The next morning the king runs down to the lion’s den to see if Daniel had become an appetizer. He calls out and Daniel replies, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong” (Daniel 6:22). Daniel remained loyal to God even at the threat of his own life. In response to being saved from the mouth of the lion, Daniel responds that he has done no wrong not even before the king. And yet, he did. He broke the law of the king.

Loyalty is not blind. We are not being loyal to our friends when we go along with their plan to hurt others or themselves. We should always strive to be loyal but never to the point where we would be held accountable for someone else’s actions. Loyalty is not being an accomplice to a crime. It is actually being disloyal for us not to guide our friends away from the hurt they intend to cause themselves or other people.

Loyalty is being faithful to a commitment or obligation. It is keeping our word. Loyalty is being faithful to our friendships. It forces us to choose who and what counts in our lives. Who you side with will determine where your loyalty lies. Loyalty means I will be trustworthy no matter how difficult the situation. But we must also readily admit that sometimes we have been disloyal. At times we have betrayed ourselves, those we love, and God.

In the gospel of Matthew Jesus is talking about his own betrayal and death. One of his disciples, Peter, says, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Less than twenty-four hours later Jesus is dragged before the High Priest. Peter watches from the courtyard. He is asked three times by those standing around about being with Jesus and three times Peter denies it. Peter had just affirmed his loyalty to Jesus and now in the moments when Jesus needs him the most Peter is disloyal. He runs off feeling like a failure.

How many of us can name a time when we have been disloyal? A time when we have betrayed the trust of a friend, family member, or even ourselves? How many of us have let someone down? How many of us have let God down?

The Good News is that we do not have to live as a disloyal person. After his resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples. He looks at Peter, the one who was disloyal, and asks, “Do you love me?” He asks not just one time but three times. Then he tells Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21: 17). In other words, live out the reason that I called you. Be loyal to me and my purpose for your life.

The bible says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). While we were disloyal, Christ died for us. His loyalty to us gives us back the lives we lost in our disloyalty. When we did not deserve it God remained loyal. God’s forgiveness in the midst of our disloyalty is reason enough for us to remain loyal to God and those we love.

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