According to some of the junk mail I receive, I am now a bona fide ‘business traveller’, someone who makes multiple work-related trips each year.
And what do airlines, hotels and other travel-related organizations want from business travellers? Well, obviously my money, but they would never be so crass as to put it like that. Instead they say, “We want your loyalty”.
And to entice me to be a loyal customer, all sorts of incentives and rewards will be mine, if I simply fill in the form and join the Gold member/frequent flyer/room rewards/regular eater program. Free hotel nights, upgrades, lounge membership, extra baggage allowance and more are the rewards I can get for making sure I fly/stay/eat with the same company each time I travel.
The theory is that, once in possession of the gold card and the potential rewards it brings, my loyalty means I won’t consider flying with other airlines that might be cheaper, or staying in hotels that might be more convenient—and given the success of most programs, offering loyalty rewards seems to work.
How should we as Christians think of this concept of loyalty? Should we think of ourselves as people loyal to God, and if so, why?
Depending on the Bible translation you use, a concordance search for ‘loyal’ or ‘loyalty’ is not going to produce many results. But when we search for related terms like ‘faithful’, ‘faithfulness’ and ‘rely’, we soon have masses of verses to check.
There is no question that Christians are to be faithful people. Faithful to God; loyal to him, if I can put it like that. We are to serve him unswervingly, and consider him first above all others. Paul commends the believers in Ephesus for their faith (Eph 1:15), and urges them to take up the shield of faith (Eph 6:16). He exhorts the Colossians to continue in the faith, being stable and steadfast (Col 1:23). He urges Timothy to pursue faith, along with righteousness, godliness, love, steadfastness and gentleness (1 Tim 6:11.)
However, there is a fundamental difference between these exhortations to faithful living and the travel marketer’s desire to attract loyalty: motivation.
When I am considering my next flight or hotel stay, why would I consider being loyal to the program of which I am a member? Simple. Personal gain. I’ll do it because if I stay those extra three nights they’ll give me one free. Or fly those extra miles and I’ll get an upgrade certificate that I can use next time. Or I can check in at the VIP desk that saves a few minutes and makes me feel important. All of these “look at the rewards I can earn” features mean I won’t fly with other airlines, even if they are cheaper.
But God wants us to be faithful for a completely different reason. We are to be faithful because he is, a fact that is proclaimed in his words and seen in his works. Having redeemed his people from Egypt, Israel is reminded that their God is a faithful God who keeps his covenant and steadfast love (Deut 7:9). The Psalmist praises God because:
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precept are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. (Psalm 111:7-8)
Ultimately, we see the faithfulness of God at the cross, where his promises to redeem his people once and for all are seen in an astounding act of love and justice.
And the result of this demonstrated faithfulness, according to the writer to the Hebrews, is that we can be faithful, steadfast and confident. Perhaps, to use the language of the marketers, we can even be loyal?
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:23)
So next time you swipe your frequent flyer card, or anticipate your ‘free reward’, remember where our loyalty really lies—the faithfulness of God to his promises—and rejoice!
Photo credit: Larry Johnson