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“Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder.                 Write them deep within your heart” (Proverbs 3:3).

Customer loyalty programs have now been around for decades. Beginning in the 1980’s with frequent flyer miles, they have evolved into almost every facet of our lives. There are hotel booking incentives, car rental programs, online point earnings, money back credit cards, and store savings via family and friends volume shopping. One convenience store that I frequent offers their own card specifically tailored to periodically reward me with free items identical to those that I purchase most often. One research study noted that consumers, on average, belong to over a dozen loyalty programs but only actively engage in half of those in which they are enrolled. Another such study highlighted that consumers are mainly interested in product discounts or getting cash back on their purchases but also note that their participation in most programs does not really drive any real sense of loyalty toward particular brands. Many also believe that loyalty program engagement is actually declining, which is not surprising.

We are trained to be wasteful consumers based on the messages we’re confronted with on a daily basis. It is not hard to understand why we have become labeled as a “throw-away society.”  Discarded products guarantee customers will replace them with newer models but not necessarily from the same company. As unmanageable as this is, even more bothersome is our proclivity for throwing away people. We easily tire of relationships and frequently do not invest the time to develop them. In his book, Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue, author Eric Felten writes: “We come and go so relentlessly that our friendships can’t but come and go too. What sort of loyalty is there in the age of Facebook, when friendship is a costless transaction, a business of flip reciprocity. Friendship held together by nothing more permanent than hyperlinks is hardly the stuff of selfless fidelity…How much is the anxiety we feel these days a function of the disheartening suspicion that, in a real jam, there might not be anyone we can count on?”

In our relationships with one another, Biblical principles call us to steadfast loyalty. There is no stronger evidence of this than the relationship between David and his friend Jonathan in the Old Testament. While Jonathan’s father, King Saul, sought to kill David – the two struck a lasting covenant between them. “At last Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the LORD’s name. The LORD is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever’” (1 Samuel 20:42). In the New Testament, Paul speaks of a “loyal companion” (Philippians 4:3). Jesus reminds us that such loyalty is to be expressed in both our relationships with the Heavenly Father as well as our fellow man. This is evidenced in first two commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31). If we follow this, we can be assured that His loyalty to us will be reciprocated: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

The problem with most of us is that our loyalty is divided at times. We are caught between the things of God and the things of the world. James called it ‘double minded.’ “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do” (James 1:8).  That instability certainly hinders a deep relationship with God, but it likewise interferes with the loyalty in our human associations as well. It is safe to assume then that loyalty requires some work on our part. Woodrow Wilson is quoted as saying, “Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.” Unlike the loyalty programs being promoted in our product world, we come to realize that it is not a commodity. It’s a two-way street. So, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise” (Hebrews 10:23). Can we?

REFLECTION: Looking back on aspects of your life, can think of situations where you believed relationships as loyal but discovered otherwise? How is that different with God? What steps can you take to foster more loyal relationships with others and God? What degrees of sacrifice are you willing to make?


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