A question of loyalty

John Hatcher's picture

Beware! Always beware. That’s the counsel some soothsayer gave Julius Caesar in regard to the coming Ides of March. Well, Caesar didn’t watch all sides and didn’t “beware” enough. March 15 — which we observe tomorrow — Julius Caesar was assassinated by Roman Senators Brutus and Cassius (Remember, “Et tu, Brute?”). It was the year 44 BC. That March 15, 44 BC was our Nov. 22, 1963.

When he wrote Inferno some 700 years later, Dante Alighieri pictured hell as concentric circles with the outer circles holding the least of the evil and the center circle holding the worst of the worst of evil. Well, guess whom we find in the worst of worst: friends Brutus and Cassius. As Dante looked at life, traitors and disloyalists were the worst. So, Brutus and Cassius provide the left and right flank for Judas Iscariot, top traitor and disloyalist.

According to Dante, the ninth circle of hell held a special kind of traitor. They were traitors who had been ostensibly known once as friends. How it hurts and how it must have hurt Caesar and of course, Jesus. It was March 15 when Caesar really knew who his friends were. And it was a dark Friday when Jesus knew the true blue of his band of followers.

The point for which I am aiming is that perhaps March 15, tomorrow, would be a perfect opportunity to take seriously the principle of loyalty in our personal relationships. After serving more than 20 years, a fellow pastor told me that he had come to the conviction and conclusion that the first qualification for an associate minister was loyalty. And that the second qualification was loyalty. And finally, the third qualification for an associate minister would have to be loyalty.

The question for the Ides of March is, “Am I loyal?” Now loyalty does not mean you approve misbehavior in the life of another. It does not mean to tell little white lies for another. But it does mean that you never lift your hand in ganging up on your friend or family member.

For example, you don’t have to like everyone in your office at work. But to get involved in the office gossip that demeans a fellow worker brings into question your level of loyalty. To pass along hurtful and questionable information about someone would be disloyal.

The traitor of all traitors simply identified Jesus in a crowd to those who wanted to get rid of Jesus. It was a kiss. A kiss of death.

This Lenten season gives us the focus to examine our relationships at home or at the job site or at the grocery store. Can I be counted as one who is loyal and true? What relational habits do I need to change in order to protect the integrity of what others believe about me? Is my loyalty bought or unconditional?

Dr. and Mrs. E Taylor Cassell about 1890 wrote a hymn for the first convention of the Baptist Young People’s Union. It’s titled, “Loyalty to Christ.” One stanza goes like this:

“From over hill and plain there comes the signal strain,
“‘Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ.
“Its music rolls along; the hills take up the song
“of loyalty, loyalty, Yes, loyalty to Christ.
“‘On to victory! On to victory!’
“Cries our great Commander, On! (great Commander, On!)
“We’ll move at His command; We’ll soon possess the land
“thro’ loyalty, loyalty, Yes, loyalty to Christ.”

Brutus. Cassius. Judas. Wasn’t worth it, was it, guys? Loyalty would have made all the difference.

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