Thursday, February 24, 2011

Confused Loyalties

It is so easy to read history and completely miss its lesson on us today. Military strategists are not that naive. They closely examine history to find out what worked and what didn’t. Professional sports coaches and players are the same. However, the history I am considering is that of people and their relationship with God. (Due to the overwhelming evidence, I will dignify the one I am speaking of by calling him by his unique name—Jehovah. Perhaps you have read other renderings like Yahweh; that’s fine. The points are twofold: 1) praise him as Jesus did (Matthew 6:9), and 2) to set him apart from all other (false) gods--1Corinthians 8:5,6) But I digress.

The history lesson I am referring to is found in what some may consider an obscure book in the Bible, Nehemiah. But the lesson is not unique there. It is echoed time and again—the matter of loyalty, specifically confused loyalties. To many that I know, doing what is “right” is circumstantial. That must have been the case with Eliashib, a high priest in Jehovah’s service. That man had a relative named Tobiah that had no respect for Jehovah’s clean worship.  The Insight book sets the dynamics here: “An opponent of Nehemiah. Tobiah was “the servant,” likely some official under the Persian king. (Ne 2:19) Both he and his son Jehohanan married Jewish women, and Tobiah was also related to High Priest Eliashib. This put Tobiah in a position of advantage for undermining Nehemiah’s authority, in that many Jews looked up to and spoke highly of Tobiah”

Focusing on chapter 13 of Nehemiah, we see that Eliashib had taken a section of property dedicated to worship and made it into a dining hall for Tobiah. It must have seemed right to him to show this official such honor but it was definitely confused loyalty. In contrast, Nehemiah set him right by drawing a clear line as to what is acceptable and unacceptable—removing the furnishing of Tobiah from their place.

Today, it is easy to become confused when someone we care for does things that are not in keeping with Bible standards. We might be afraid of hurting that person or losing their friendship. Especially within the Christian congregation when we see a fellow believer acting questionably, especially if they are close friend, we might be reluctant to speak up. But really, if we didn’t, what would be the outcome for them at Armageddon? They would lose their life—and  then we would have lost our friend forever. On top of that is the principle stated at Ezekiel  3:17 & 18, “Son of man, a watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel, and you must hear from my mouth speech and you must warn them from me. When I say to someone wicked, ‘You will positively die,’ and you do not actually warn him and speak in order to warn the wicked one from his wicked way to preserve him alive, he being wicked, in his error he will die, but his blood I shall ask back from your own hand.”

Yes, if we aren’t bold enough to stand up for what is right and help our friend, even if it means losing their friendship for a while, we also could be in jeopardy of losing our life. But the motivation should always be 1) love of Jehovah first and foremost, and 2) true unselfish love for our friend.