The Breakfast Club, a popular movie from the 1980s, depicted five different students, all from different high school stereotypes. There was the jock, the nerd, the princess, the bad kid, and the troubled kid. The movie is popular because it shows that behind every cookie-cutter stereotype, a real person is living a real story that’s much more complex.
I remember navigating this tension. As a middle school student, I shifted from several identities, trying to navigate a world that had changed so much for me after my accident when I was in sixth grade. Every attempt to form a new identity was really an attempt to find purpose and meaning.
Identity is multilayered.
For some, I’m their boss. For some, I’m their pastor. For others, I’m their friend. For a few, I’m their dad. And for one, I’m her husband. Leader, Pastor, Friend, Father, and Husband… those are a lot of hats to juggle.
Think about where we are as a culture. Our identity isn’t fixed merely on titles and responsibilities. Our identity is formed by choices we make, allegiances we declare, and the support we give.
So… For many of us, it’s no longer Parent and Spouse. We are defined by much more than relationships and vocation. We are defined by political parties and politicians we endorse. We are defined by the businesses we support. And this new approach has created quite a problem for our identity.
There is a hierarchy within our identity. At least there should be.
I’d suggest to you that one of the reasons we can’t seem to get it right these days is because we’ve lost the sense of what’s ultimately important. We’re navigating life by reacting to what seems important at the moment, not what’s ultimately important in our lives.
We teach our kids that it’s essential to be kind to strangers, respectful to their teachers, and lots of other useful things. We also show them, rightly so, that they are ultimately responsible for being obedient to their parents. They’ll get a new teacher next year, strangers will pass in a few seconds, but they’re stuck under the authority of their parents.
In essence, we’re teaching our kids that there is a loyalty that matters more.
This understanding helps them to navigate the tensions that come as a result of the conflict. Conflict within our loyalties is inevitable. The teacher is going to say it’s ok to do something the parent has said is not. The friend’s parent is going to allow something that the parent doesn’t. We rightly guide our kids to understand that their highest loyalty is not to the moment, but to their parents.
WHEN YOUR LOYALTY GETS CONFLICTED
Have you experienced that as an adult? I’m sure you have. Your friends make a comment about your wife. Your coworkers make fun of your boss. People online insult a political belief that you hold.
How do you navigate this?
If you haven’t decided what’s important to you, you’ll be tossed into the moment with the feelings and stresses that it brings. You’ll be tempted to sacrifice what is ultimately important to you for something that feels important to you at the moment.
This is pretty easy when you’re dealing with external relationships, choosing between your wife and friends, for example. It’s much harder when you’re internally conflicted.
I think that one challenging thing for us today is that we’re living in a time where we don’t understand a loyalty that disagrees. We don’t do this well with others, and we don’t do it well inside ourselves.
It’s too often we either blindly accept everything from a person or holistically reject someone because of a mild disagreement. This sort of loyalty doesn’t lend itself to improvement or progress.
It’s also important to recognize that we don’t have to offer blind loyalty to others. This means we can still honor a relationship, provide our loyalty, and admit that something isn’t right.
When someone points out something that’s honestly negative about a politician you admire, you don’t have to become unhinged or disassociated. You can simply acknowledge their shortcomings and continue to support them until acknowledging their shortcomings becomes an issue!
OUR GREATEST LOYALTY
If this tension is real, we must live with an understanding of where our greatest loyalty resides because it honestly seems like we’re often confused about this.
As a follower of Jesus, our greatest loyalty resides in Him.
Make no mistake, this is where our ultimate accountability lies. It’s Jesus that we’re called to follow, be like, and love like.
Our passing whims of affiliation should never pale in comparison to the greatness of our affection for the true King of our lives.
This is where we get hijacked. Our hearts are coerced into affection for things that have only momentary significance. We lay down the ultimate for the fleeting.
Not only do we dishonor Jesus, be we dishonor the things He loves. In our freakish attempts to express these temporary loyalties, we dishonor people, the very thing Jesus gave His life to save. All people, even people that fall way outside of our perspective, are objects of His affection. He desires that all of them come to a saving knowledge of Himself.
Let’s get it right. Jesus is the object of our ultimate loyalty, he will forever remain that, and nothing can compare to Him.
Let’s live like Jesus is our King. Let’s treat others in a way that reflects the price He paid for them.
Let’s do better.
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What’s one source of identity that’s created a false sense of loyalty?