It’s not news that the approach to loyalty in the United States has changed over the past 30-40 years. If our collective loyalty tank used to be three-fourths full it has gone down to a fourth at best. Loyalty is about the commitment of two people or groups to each other, and both sides are responsible for the amount of loyalty present. Here are a couple examples.
Should I stay or should I go…
In the past few days Les Miles, the coach of the LSU football team, entertained overtures from Arkansas University to go and be their coach, even though he had multiple years left on his contract. It worked out well for him though, LSU reworked his contract–paying him even more money and adding years to the deal (although those years won’t matter if another opportunity comes along). You can hardly blame Les when the college football climate is one where a coach is fired after a couple bad years, no matter how successful they’ve been and no matter how many years are left on their contract.
At Mountair, a 92-year-old church, we have many people who have been here literally their entire life. While we have quite a few new people in the last few years, before that being new meant you had been a part of the church less than ten. This church has been through some tough times and big blow ups over the years, but almost no one has left. They take pride in sticking together even through difficulty and tension. They are loyal to each other and this church. Contrast this with people who go church shopping as soon as a single decision they don’t like is made or there’s a change in the worship style. (I’m not saying changing churches is always bad or reflects a lack of loyalty, but it certainly can.)
One of the reasons for the change in our culture in regard to loyalty is a breakdown of the value of relationships. Ultimately that is the foundation of loyalty–a commitment to a person or organization. Where honoring commitments to others used to be among the highest values people held, now personal satisfaction and gain have moved ahead of it in the list of values. Money is more important than relationships. Comfort, safety, and security are more important than relationships.
This is problematic for followers of Jesus. The things that cause many to break loyalties are things that are not values Jesus held. He did not pursue money, security, or safety. He did not abandon people when they offended his sensibilities. He challenged people, but he didn’t run from them when things got tough. When his disciples did stupid stuff he didn’t switch them out for someone else. He was committed to people and that made him loyal.
I am not saying loyalty is the value to overshadow all other values. There are times when trust is breached, a calling leads you in a new direction, or higher values are compromised in a way that makes breaking loyalty necessary. But we would be well-served to consider how seriously we take loyalty and rediscover the power of mutual commitment.