Dear co-workers in Christ Jesus,
Loyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church is the duty of every practicing Christian. Loyalty is like faith, it means assurance of another. In ancient times, the two words had the same meaning, and referred to one's loyalty to a person, or trustworthiness to a promise they had made. The person receiving the promise was acting on faith and trusting in that person, and that is what loyalty is mainly about. But, loyalty has another facet to it. It is also a call that we involve other characters into, such as, forgiveness, mercy, and respect. We are to realize this with people, even when it is undeserved and unearned. It is also the knowledge that people with whom we place our loyalty will disappoint us. However, we cannot base our character and self image in their reaction, only in who Christ is. Our outlook on life and reaction to people needs to be rooted in God, not on how those people responded to us. We are not responsible for how people treat us; we are only responsible for treating them with utmost character, as a reflection of Christ. Therefore, the word Christian is being "Christ like," not "self like".
We are never to forget what Christ did for us. So, our treatment of a person needs to be rooted in Christ, not in what they can do for us, or how they respond to us. Yes, we need to be discerning, and not be overly taken advantage of. But, real friendship is not based on who can do what, but in mutual love and respect that is freely given and freely received. God will bring people into our lives, and we cannot--due to logistics and time--be good friends with everyone. But, we can treat everyone with whom we come in contact, with good character--and that means with loyalty, too. We need to realize that in order to keep relationships functional, we have to be dedicated, trustworthy, dependable, and committed. That means we do not gossip, we do not put down, we do not undermine, we do not play games, we do not create factions and unrest in the parish; rather we model Christ and what He did for us!
We are to realize that God works through all kinds of people, including our church and others. God uses others to carry His plan to us and those around us. Therefore, loyalty is also a demonstration of our obedience to the almighty God.
Look at it this way. If you want your church healthy and lined up to God's call, commands and precepts, you have to be loyal! That means trustworthy, faithful and devoted to Christ as Lord and His Truth! It means a defining quality that I am fully engaged to be in Christ, to follow Christ and lead others to Christ. In contrast, if we are not loyal; then, we are betraying. As the parish priest, my first and foremost duty is to point all of you to the Good Shepherd, Christ. So, the point of this message is simple. We must always be loyal to our Lord and to serve Him through the Church with integrity, honesty, faith, love, trust, obedience and humility.
It is wrong and sinful to become an obstructionist and to bring your personal prejudices to the church. The church never relies on the services of anyone who is acting with malice, envy, and mean- spiritedness. That kind of service has no value and it is unacceptable. No one is indispensable! If you, an Orthodox Christian, have a hidden agenda, an agenda, to create friction and unrest within the parish, you have no place in the church.
All of the truly committed Orthodox Christians will maintain their loyalty to Our Lord and will not be influenced or discouraged by those who have sinister plans.
We are quickly approaching the Holy and Great Lent, a time of prayer, a time of repentance, and time of forgiveness and reconciliation with the Almighty. Let us not neglect to live up to our Christian values, principles and to adhere to the Divine Commandments of our Lord.
In Christ our Savior,