Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
~ Vince Lombardi
Let me ask you something: Is it wrong to be loyal to a person or group of people? Think before you answer. Some say your loyalty should be to God and Jesus Christ and not to an organization, so is it wrong to be loyal to your church? Is it wrong to be loyal to an organization? If not, what does it look like?
First, let me ask a question about the very first organization that God created and ask, “Is it wrong to be loyal to your spouse?” I hope the answer is obvious. Yet, following the logic that is sometimes presented as loyalty to God being the first priority, one would think that loyalty to an organization — any organization — is wrong. And, let’s not kid ourselves, the family is an organization, and it is the organization that is the building block of society.
Being loyal to a human being does not mean that that relationship is a replacement for loyalty and a relationship with God. Rather, it should be a supplement to that ultimate relationship.
David and Jonathan had a very strong relationship. I have no doubt that they were loyal to one another, and David proved his loyalty by seeking out descendants of Jonathan to honor after Jonathan’s death. Yet, it should be obvious that David understood the priorities of putting God first and foremost, and that loyalty supercedes any other.
What about loyalty to country? Jeremiah was a true patriot. He wrote an entire Book of Lamentations over the destruction of Judah. Yet, he was also God’s prophet. He spoke a harsh truth to a stiff-necked people, a people who abused him time and time again, and yet he steadfastly loved them.
Remember, Judah was God’s people. We can learn a lot from Jeremiah.
The Controversial Jeremiah
The case of Jeremiah should prove that loyalty to a nation is not wrong. It is not, or at least it should not be, controversial.
16 “As for you, do not pray for these people. Do not offer a cry or a prayer on their behalf, and do not beg Me, for I will not listen to you.
~ Jer 7:16 (HCSB)
How difficult this command must have been for Jeremiah! Why would God ask this of him?
As Evidence Unseen puts it in “(Jer. 7:16) Why would God tell Jeremiah NOT to pray for Israel?“:
The problem isn’t with God or with Jeremiah; the problem is with the people. God had already given them adequate chance to turn and repent, but they refused. God already told Jeremiah, “I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you but you did not answer” (Jer. 7:13).
God knows the people will not repent! Praying for their well-being will do no good because they will continue on with their despicable practices, including child sacrifice!
That did not stop Jeremiah’s loyalty, although he apparently at one point decided it was not worth it to take God’s message to them. He was human, and he wavered, but he eventually felt compelled to carry on the job God had given him.
A very unpopular job, that is.
Was Jeremiah “controversial”? In his day, he certainly was! He was opposed by false prophets and cowardly royalty alike!
You know, I have been told that my blog is “controversial”. How so? Could someone please illuminate why the truth is controversial? Within the Church?
Loyal to the Mob
You can be loyal to all the wrong things, you know. Organized crime demands loyalty to its organization.
There is something that strikes me as odd about some of the messages at the Feast this year.
I have met one person who has a certain level of disdain for all these church organizations. It sounds like perhaps he has been treated badly by some of them, and I honestly know of some who have been treated wrongly. I am not God, I was not there, and I’m not going to judge this matter, but it is difficult to be loyal to someone who abuses you.
I ran into someone I know as well. This was a person abused within their marriage. It was subtle abuse, but somehow the church organization saw it fit to goad her into staying in this relationship far beyond what is healthy or right.
Can anyone doubt that loyalties can be misplaced?
I also met someone who, apparently, strongly believes there is only “one Church”. He believes that all these splinters fall outside of the “true Church”, even though there might be some Christians within the other organizations. This argument is futile and self-defeating. At very least, it is self-contradictory.
What is interesting, though, is that both the person who felt abused by a church and the one who feels there is only one true church have said something very similar: The messages this year seem to be off/lukewarm.
I’m not willing to go that far, but there has been a pattern. It seems that some are spending a lot of time trying to talk up enthusiasm for an organization of men, incorporated according to man’s laws and only one part of the overall body of Christ. I would venture to say that all this talk of being loyal to an organization, some subtle and some not, is a turn-off for both extremes. It just does not feel real.
More than that, I would state with confidence that it is misguided. God’s Church should be talking about loyalty to her husband, not to organizations of men, no matter what they represent. Being loyal to an organization for loyalty’s sake is not godly. Being loyal to an organization that God is using, can be proven to have the right attitude, doctrine and love, according to biblical standards, at least most of the time is quite a different matter.
Of course, being disloyal is not a godly trait either. Jesus remained committed to eleven men who ran away from Him when He needed comfort the most. That alone should point to where our real loyalty should lie.
11 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
~ 1Co 11:1 (NCV)
How many times have we read right over the above verse without thinking about it? Paul did not call for people to blindly follow him. He was often criticized so much that he had to assert his authority as an Apostle, and yet here he does not talk about loyalty to himself or the Church, but only to follow him as he follows Christ!
When you really dig down deep and think about it, this should make sense. Wives are told to follow their husbands to the point that they have the proper authority and follow Christ. Members are told to obey their employers up to the point they follow Christ, i.e., do not command the member to sin. We are to obey governments up to the point where they tell someone to sin. Once that point is reached, we are commanded to disobey!
Are religious leaders somehow exempt from this principle?
29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
~ Ac 5:29
Sadly, this verse has been abused to the point where it is difficult to know the right thing to do at times. However, if you clear your head and read it straight on, it becomes quite evident that even religious leaders are to be disobeyed when they are in error.
And, that is the tricky part, isn’t it? When can you know they are in error? Well, if you are doing what you should be doing, reading the Bible daily, praying daily, meditating upon God’s word and occasionally fasting, won’t God show you from His word the right and the wrong of a given matter? Well? Will He or won’t He if you honestly seek the answer?
It does not stop there.
Acts 5:29 also shows us something important in that the Apostles did not “get in the face” of the religious authorities, either. They did not act belligerently, even though they were eventually abused and beaten for their disobedience to the religious authorities. They only rebelled in the matter that was at odds with God. Otherwise, they acted with respect because authority is given by God (Ro 13:1).
More to the point, they did not renounce their Judaism! It is important to remember that the Apostles still considered themselves Jews, even though the Jews considered them heretics! They were still loyal to their roots!
Mainstream Christianity does not, and perhaps cannot, understand that. Do you?
… I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee …
~ Ac 23:6
Even Paul did not renounce being a Pharisee! Some see his speech as some sort of trick in order to not be condemned, but if it were not true, then could he have in good conscience, as a leader of truth tellers following the God of truth, made such a declaration?
So, let me just ask that if these things are so why it is OK to renounce association with any given church organization upon a whim? I do not mean those who were asked to leave, but I am specifically asking those who voluntarily left.
As to those who were asked to leave for other than the right reasons, I suggest each of you examine his or her own self to ensure no root of bitterness creeps up.
14 Follow peace with all men (even religious leaders you disagree with), and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
~ Heb 12:14-15
“Many” are defiled and not “a few”!!! That is an important detail to remember!
There are those who become offended, and usually without cause I should add, who have gone out and become bitter. James Malm’s blog oozes bitterness, particularly towards UCG but others as well. David Pack pronounces judgment upon the other churches, which is a sure sign of envy and bitterness. PCG causes bitterness and offense by breaking up families! Bob Thiel goes out of his way to be offended by small matters and twist small matters to lead others astray.
Seriously, can their followers not discern between God’s Spirit and that of Satan?
Is loyalty to an organization wrong? Not when they follow God! However, when the organization exalts men above God, is bearing the fruits of bitterness and lies and continually projects the attitude of the enemy, it is time to turn around and run!
And, being human, no one follows God perfectly, it should be added. I find it pretty offensive when a minister (or anyone else) says, “I cannot find any [not one!] doctrine of xyzCOG that is wrong.” That is a man who is dishonest and/or deceived.
If we are perfect in doctrine, then what is left to learn? If we are perfect in doctrine, then is there any need to be preached to every week? If we are perfect, even if only in doctrine, then why would we need God? Is anyone or anything outside of God the Father and Jesus Christ perfect?
By the same token, we are commanded to assemble together every week, following the pattern of the OT and NT alike.
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
~ Heb 10:24-25
I’m sorry, but I read the above, and I have a little trouble believing Paul meant that we are to go from congregation to congregation cafeteria-style. It is quite difficult to provoke one another and exhort one another unless we are meeting regularly. It is difficult to envision building the necessary trust among each other unless we are committed to one another. At very least, this points to loyalty to a congregation if not a larger organization.
Again, what am I saying that is controversial here? Are we so far from the truth that it is now controversial?
In these conversations with various people, there still is the matter of love. Love requires commitment, and it has become obvious to me that the biggest obstacle to the Church doing its duty is that it misinterprets, misunderstands and misapplies love.
I once again found myself in the love vs keeping commandments conversation. Why are there so many Pharisees that claim to be Christians? You can keep a lot of rules and laws, manmade and biblically mandated, all day long and miss out on the Kingdom.
Seriously, if you do not believe that love is the root, that we keep the commandments out of love, then question your salvation!
28 One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?”
29 “This is the most important,” Jesus answered:
Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
31 “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”
32 Then the scribe said to Him, “You are right, Teacher! You have correctly said that He is One, and there is no one else except Him. 33 And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to question Him any longer.
~ Mk 12:28-34 (HCSB)
The point should be clear: Love is the foundation for the commandments. The Pharisees sought righteousness, but they had it backwards. They believed you can keep a lot of nitpicky rules and that would result in righteousness. Jesus turned this around by saying that the Law proceeds from love.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
~ 1Jn 4:7-8 (HCSB)
Is knowing God important? If it is, then knowing love is important. How do we know that knowing God is important?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
~ Mt 7:23
Jesus did not simply say, “Get away from me, evil doers.” He said, “I never knew you”. There has to be a relationship. There has to be loyalty. There has to be love.
Husbands and Wives
If you’ve been married more than five years, you probably realize that there often is a very misguided view of love, marriage and submission taught by sometimes well-meaning elders and ministers.
The reality is that even though the man is in charge, he can easily abuse his power over his wife. The more often this occurs, the less healthy the relationship is. In fact, we all, including husbands and wives, have a responsibility to sometimes yield to one another.
20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
~ Ep 5:20-21
Ever notice how verse 22 seems to get quoted a lot without the preceding two verses? “Submitting yourselves one to another” means husbands and wives as much as anyone else. Yes, husbands can and do at times yield to their wives!
Does God ever respond to human behavior? Our very salvation depends upon it!
13 When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.
14 Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;
15 If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.
16 None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.
~ Eze 33:13-16
All Christians believe they are forgiven. This requires an act by God to overlook our sins as in regards to the ultimate penalty for sin. However, this first requires repentance. God responds to that repentance with forgiveness. If we do not repent, He will not forgive.
Obviously, I’m leaving several details out here, but that is the gist of the message about forgiveness. True repentance will lead to a commitment and other actions. The point is, however, that God responds to our repentance, and our very salvation depends upon that. Without this, there is no Gospel.
God responds to people in other matters as well. Consider the “contradiction” of the twelve spies being sent into Canaan.
22 And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.
23 And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe:
~ Dt 1:22-23
We see that it was the idea of the Children of Israel to send spies into Canaan.
13 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.
3 And Moses by the commandment of the Lord sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.
~ Nu 13:1-3
So, whose idea was it to send the spies into Canaan, Israel’s or God’s?
Rather than a contradiction, this is, as almost all so-called contradictions are, a case of complementary Scriptures that add detail to what happened. Israel came up with the idea and proposed it to Moses, who thought it sounded like a good idea. Moses obviously took the matter to God, Who approved the plan.
How many men in the Bible prayed for a thing and received it? Are not those all cases of God responding to men? Are they not cases of God submitting to those whom He loves?
This is not contradictory, for let’s not forget that the main principle in prayer is to consider God’s will in all things. We pray for something, and God responds in a way that does not violate His will. Even God puts God’s will first, when you consider it, for He will give people what they ask for only if it fits within His will.
However, if a petition to God does not violate God’s goals, the ultimate being that as many as is possible will come to eternal life and glory, then God will favorably. The problem is that oftentimes there are unknown consequences as far as our knowledge goes in any given matter, but God knows them and will act accordingly.
How much less should a husband submit to a desire of his wife should it not involve sin or harm?
It is an odd thing that a husband is supposed to be loyal enough to his wife to give his life for her, but to not submit to her under any circumstances at any time — at least in some people’s minds.
Loyalty will involve submission, but perhaps not as it is traditionally taught. There will be times when honor demands submitting in the other direction, else it is mere lip service.
Was David the greater or Jonathan? Yet, David submitted to Jonathan and swore an oath that when he became king he would not abandon Jonathan or his descendants (1Sa 20:15-17).
So, loyalty (as well as love) needs to run both ways in order to be complete. God and Jesus show loyalty over and over again when prayer is answered.
Love Vs the World
Loyalty to a job and a company used to be rewarded in kind. It was expected that certain obligations flowed up and certain ones flowed down.
However, loyalty not only is rarely found these days, but it is seldom rewarded or even noticed. Companies still want to demand a lot from their employees, but they want to give little in return. As a result, they wind up with employees who only want to give a little themselves.
HWA often said that love is “outgoing concern for others”. Outgoing meant it was unselfish, which tends to be mankind’s natural state.
Love requires a commitment, though. It is ongoing. It is not a one-time event. It must continue, or it dies.
Loyalty naturally runs outwardly, unselfishly as well. Loyalty is that commitment! It reinforces love.
Love without loyalty, then, is no better than the world’s view of love. In fact, even the world understands that real love involves loyalty.
Loyalty does not seek harm to the other. Loyalty is based upon helping the other. Loyalty is love in action.
When we say you cannot have loyalty to an organization, then you are saying that love cannot exist within one. If that is so, then what about families, communities, nations and churches? They are only figments of our imaginations if that is true.
However, loyalty means keeping the other from harming themselves as well. When the object of loyalty is doing wrong, the true loyalist will point out the error, and most likely do so in the way that bring about the least amount of embarrassment and harm.
The world does not value this deep degree of loyalty, does it? Instead, the world fosters the party spirit. “He’s our man!” they will cry. “She’s our woman!” they will proclaim. “We are #1!” “Yay, team!” “Go team, go!”
The party spirit does not care whether or not the person has transgressed. Why do people still follow someone who did the very same thing that others have gone to jail over? Because that someone is “their person”! It is because the party spirit demands it.
Politicians play this game to the hilt. Sports figures do too. Yet, even on a smaller scale, we have undoubtedly all been guilty of participating in this party spirit.
Perhaps a party spirit exists within a church organization. No one dares to criticize it or its leaders. The organization is always right. The organization must brush aside any appearance of fallibility.
That is the world’s way. It is the opposite of love, loyalty and Christian humility.
Yet, so are the attitudes of many who criticize with a judgmental spirit. They fan their egos by trotting out supposed wrongs and making mountains out of molehills. They tear down the “other side”, which really is the opposite side of the party spirit. People unite because they are opposed to the same thing.
Contrasting the world’s cheaper version, the party spirit, against the real deal, loyalty, the message becomes clear. Is loyalty to an organization wrong? No, not only is it not wrong, but it is necessary. Loyalty is where love flourishes.
However, loyalty must run up and down the organization, else it dies.
More importantly, loyalties, like everything else in life, must be prioritized. Loyalty to family, work, school or even a church organization must not take priority over our loyalty to God.
One recurring message in just about any church organization I am aware of is one of unity. Many, if not most, of these messages have little effect because they miss the mark.
The emphasis is almost always on doctrine. “Speak the same thing” might sound all well and good, but getting everyone to agree on everything all the time is just not possible in this present world. Again, do married couples argue because they are united? Is one being disloyal by not agreeing with the other?
Wives are often told to submit to their husbands, but is that even the right message? Yes, I know that Eve was told the fate of her sex by desiring to be the dominant one in the relationship even while the husband was to be the head of household, but does that mean a wife can never disagree with her husband? And, if he states an opinion, does that mean the wife cannot have a different opinion?
God gave us, both sexes, minds to think and reason with. The question is not whether or not mates will disagree, since it is a given that they eventually will disagree. The question is what to do about it.
If a wife truly loves her husband, then will she sit back and watch in silence as he makes a serious mistake? Obviously, that makes no sense, yet there are some that would want you to disregard all reason and say something pretty close to it.
Of course, if a wife truly loves her husband, then she won’t continually nag and berate him, either. Simply put, that is a lack of respect. Notice I did not say he could perceive it as a lack of respect, but rather nagging and berating is a lack of respect.
Her loyalty demands she says something before he makes a mistake. His loyalty demands that he listens to her concerns.
Yet, why is a church relationship supposed to be so different? Can a church be united by pounding one’s fist on the table and ordering it to be united? No, of course not. In a marriage, that would be considered abuse. Furthermore, accusing one of division
simply for when voicing concerns over a matter is not productive when the person is not being disloyal and is not causing division.
Even in this, love really is the answer. I have sooner or later sung “O God of Every Nation” just about everywhere I’ve gone, but do people really heed the words? “When hatred and division give way to love and peace”, then problems can be solved between nations, groups of people and individuals alike.
Jesus speaks about the Nicolaitans in Revelation, but He assumes we know who they are. Since they are only mentioned in this book without explanation, that clearly indicates that the identity of the Nicolaitans lies in the translation of the name itself.
And, if you disagree with that assessment, then please drop any and all protestations that “the Bible interprets the Bible” because you obviously do not believe it.
Nico in Greek means victory or to conquer. The name literally means “to conquer the lay people”.
As JH Allen pointed out in “The Nicolaitans“, they were similar to the Pharisees. They not only wanted to be teachers and leaders, but they wanted power over the people. They wanted titles like “Master”, “Rabbi” and such. JH Allen wrote:
The word “excess,” as used above, means the carnal abuse of lawful things; things lawful and right carried to extremes. For it is true that there is a legal and God approved honor given to certain selected ones..
Allen goes on to give several biblical references to show that there is such a thing as church authority. Therefore, the Nicolaitans were and are the ones who deal with their flock in a heavy-handed and unlawful manner.
45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
~ Lk 12:45-46
Unfortunately, HWA turned from his original opinion on church government stated in his 1939 article “Did Christ Reorganize the Church?” and began teaching his own version of the Primacy of Peter doctrine later in life, which set the tone for Nicolaitanism that would follow him.
Some have identified hierarchical, top-down government as Nicolaitanism, but that is speculative at best because there is no Scripture that forbids that model of government. In fact, God not only tolerated human kings over Judah and Israel, He stepped in and appointed them at various times and places.
Abuse of the brethren can happen when a committee or board, or whatever you want to label a group of men at the top, are in charge. The difference is that the abuse tends to be diluted through the multitude of hands in the pie. One person at the top can, in theory, be more efficient and benevolent than a group of people, but it rarely works out that way. Men using flattery and currying favors get in the way of any good that might be done, human nature being what it is.
We have seen cases in more than one organization where one man at the top is more abusive as well. The lust for power attracts those who would support him at the top, so in reality it still becomes a group of people at the top abusing the members. It is just unchecked because the top leader not only tolerates it and promotes it but engages in it himself.
What keeps people loyal in these situations? Sometimes it is a relationship with a loved one. Most often it is simply fear. Promises of escape from the Tribulation, the fear of being cut off from one who is significant in your life and other cultish tactics are used to make a person afraid to leave.
7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
~ 2Ti 1:7
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
~ 1Jn 4:18
Let me ask you: Do you believe the above? They are, after all, straight out of your Bible!
Most would acknowledge that a woman would not have to stay in the same house as an abuse husband. Unfortunately, as I have already pointed out, some would encourage her to stay there anyhow. I suspect even more would advise an abused member stay with their particular group in spite of the abuse.
If fear is your motivator for staying with any congregation, it is time to re-think your relationship with God. If sermons seem to be centered upon unity among the brethren and loyalty to an organization, then realize that unity first begins with God.
If sermons and messages are centered around who will or will not go the Place of Safety, then please understand that you are being abused — period. Abusers like Bob Thiel will continue to spread the FUD that only their particular group is “Philadelphian” (when they are not in God’s eyes) and that only their group will be saved from the Tribulation. Gerald Flurry will continue to go beyond even that and rip apart families — the very unit that he continually says God is building for Himself, ironically enough — and use fear to control his members. It should be clear to anyone with a clear mind that these are not the fruits of God’s Spirit!
The attitude of the top leadership does make a difference. Unfortunately, none will be perfect until Christ returns. The challenges are:
- Finding a group that is as close as possible in doctrine to what the Bible actually says.
- Finding a group that is as close as possible in attitude to what the Bible says is the mind of a loving Savior.
- Being loyal to a group, but only up to a point, and that point being obedience to God Himself.
These may or may not conflict. These may or may not vary not just by parent organization but even by congregation. The challenge does not necessarily stop at the organization you write out the first tithe check.
Even then, the biggest challenge of all might be to react to a perceived difference, slight or wrong in a godly manner. Even if one has to separate from abuse, it needs to be done as peaceably as possible.
To be quite frank, this is why I attend at COGWA. COGWA ministers for the most part split without making a bunch of railing accusations against those in charge at UCG, whereas UCG continually told ministers to leave, don’t let the door hit you on the way out and disfellowshipping widows for clicking on “Like” on Facebook. Many mistook this as rebellion because they felt in the dark as to what was going on. However, it is like one minister stated, “Actions are doctrine, too,” and quietly attempting to resolve differences between offended parties is exactly what Matthew 18 teaches.
However, COGWA has a couple of hardliner loyalists. The problem is, where do you draw that line? Is loyalty to an organization more important than unity with God? Perhaps this article will help clarify the difference. If it offends, so be it. What can I say? The truth is controversial after all, it would appear.
Is loyalty to an organization wrong? No, of course not, unless that organization is being abusive and/or the loyalty does not take priority over our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ.