The Bare Soul - February 27, 2011
Loyalty

Proverbs 21:21 - He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor.

Recently, I re-watched the first two movies in The Godfather series. I don't have a lot of extra time for movie-watching, but I was able to catch bits and pieces while doing other things in my office. What has always intrigued and fascinated me about these films is the character of Michael Corleone. His devotion toward "The Family" is notable in a ruthless fashion. Of course, once Michael became Godfather, everything had to be his way. It was understood, that for him to show weakness meant a breakdown in the strength of the family. If he made concessions, he knew that others would take advantage of his proposed kindness. In order for this not to happen, we see a stalwart leader that is (to the most part) unyielding in his loyalty to his business, his family, and to his criminal heritage. However, the adage is true in respect to the Corleones; those who live by the sword will ultimately die by the sword (or in this case, the gun). Their earthly kingdom of wealth and power garnered by nefarious behavior was destined to crumble. Their continued success was dependent on their continual sacrifice and loyalty to their cause, no matter how destructive the outcome to them and all whose lives they touched.

My take-away from movies usually involve themes. Probably my favorite movies are redemptive. Not so with The Godfather Saga. In these, I see a theme of perverse loyalty that only results in death and destruction. Michael said something very poignant in the first film; keep your friends close, but keep your enemies even closer. How true this must be also in Satan's kingdom! I can only imagine how the demonic realm functions outside of what scripture tells us, but I believe earthly manifestations of evil can also give us insight into the evil one's kingdom. Looking at Michael Corleone's statement, one can see an underlying mistrust for both enemies and friends. With a "business" built on wickedness, how difficult would it be to call any "friends" and believe they were totally trustworthy? We can only imagine that similar attitudes are prevalent in the demonic world. Paul tells us that principalities and powers rule the air (Ephesians 6:12). As we live and breathe, there are Satanic forces hovering above us in the second heavens, trying to affect men's lives for evil. The book of Daniel, amongst other places in the scriptures, tells us that there are devilish "princes" ruling over various parts of the earth (Daniel 10:13). We can easily surmise that under these princes exist legions of demonic minions that live in constant fear of disobeying the slightest command of their demonic superiors. We can speculate that every time they fail in their quests to move us toward wickedness, then they are severely punished. It appears that one of the most horrific punishments to a demon would be to send it back to hell. This is evident in the  exorcism of the man from the land of the Gerasenes in Luke chapter eight. The demons named Legion pled with Jesus not to send them back into the abyss, asking instead to be allowed to enter a herd of swine (Luke 8:31-32). Possibly, to be allowed to roam the earth and perpetrate mayhem on mankind was a huge promotion compared to the demotion and punishment that awaited them if they failed in their earthly duties. It's no wonder that when Jesus addressed the Pharisee's accusation of casting out demons by Satan's authority, he posed a question of logic as a rebuttal. He answered them as follows: But He knew their thoughts and said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul." Jesus tells us straight up that there is no division in Satan's kingdom -- that he controls his realm with intimidation and fear -- much like what we might witness in a Hollywood movie about gangsters.

While Christians should not necessarily keep their enemies closer than their friends, we should certainly understand the schemes and the desires of our enemy to entrap us to do his bidding. Our understanding of who we are in Christ allows us to be loyal to a kind Master that does not threaten retribution if we should stumble. In the aforementioned story, Christ appears to show mercy when dealing with Legion. He could have easily denied their request, but instead he allowed them to enter and destroy a herd of swine. While it is unclear why He would allow a herd of pigs to be hurled over a cliff, it does speak to His sovereignty to show mercy and kindness to whomever He desires (Romans 9:15). While it may not fit in our theology to believe that Jesus would be kind to demons, He ultimately had a higher purpose than just that or He would not have done it. Our God is not sympathetic or over-emotional and is not swayed by unreasonable entreaties. On the surface, it looks like he succumbed to the demons desire. However, we can be assured that His loyalty to the Father did not waver in that situation whatsoever. For whatever reason, Jesus did what He did. He was still in control and did not have to use retribution. Possibly, he desired to remind these fallen creatures the difference between their leader and the One whom they rebelled against long ago? However, the point is that Jesus lived faithfully and with loyalty toward His Father and His desires. His kingdom is one built on love, kindness, mercy AND loyalty. The opposite is true of Satan's realm where hate, fear, and the promise of retribution are ever-looming realities.

Whether it's movie Mafioso or Satan's minions, we can be assured there is a price to pay for the lust of living for oneself. While both organizations undoubtedly promise rewards, they are empty ones that will only result in misery and death. Those who pursues sin and loyalty to depravity will ultimately find unrighteousness and dishonor. However, those who choose to follow the Son of God become part of a "Family" that never seeks retribution when we fail, but always offers mercy and kindness to the contrite of heart. As long as we stay loyal to the One who paid the price for our souls by His death on the cross, we have nothing to fear. Jesus' loyalty to the Father made room for us all in the most loving family ever created. May we all turn from the hate and fear that seeks to monger death to our earthly existence, and may we turn to the One who is faithful and loyal to see us fulfill our eternal destinies. Lord, we pledge our lives to You and the glorious future You've planned for us all!

Heavenly Father, help us to pursue Your righteousness. Let us pursue You with devoted loyalty, daily seeking your presence in our lives and those whom we love. In our seeking, You've promised life, holiness, and honor. Let it be so, Lord. Thank you that You've made us part of Your glorious family through the loyalty of Your Son. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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