CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©
Yesterday I told the story of Bob and Lois Teague, our next-door neighbors when our children were little, and how Bob wanted to be remembered as one who was faithful. When I did his funeral, faithfulness, of course, was the theme, the faithfulness of Bob, and the faithfulness of God.
I knew Bob well enough to know that his faithfulness often took the form of stubbornness. Sometimes we mistake stubbornness for faithfulness. They are not really the same thing. But Bob and I had been through the wars together, at least the battle about the Viet Nam war. We were both too old to soldier in Viet Nam, but we had strong opinions about the justice of that war. Both of us had started out supporting American intervention in Southeast Asia. I was a campus minister, so I knew a lot of young men who went to that war. I knew some who returned, much the worse for the experience. I knew some who did not return, leaving those who loved them much the worse for the experience. I began to question the war. Bob did not. He stubbornly dug into his position. As I grew more and more aware of how wrong that war was, Bob and I grew further apart on that issue, which strained out neighborly relations. Then there came a day when he said, simply, “You’re right. This war makes no sense.”
Bob’s faithfulness was to what is right. He was stubborn in that faithfulness, but when he learned that the correct position had left him, he was able to change and follow it.
Faithfulness for its own sake is merely stubbornness.
Because he was himself a wealthy patrician, President Franklin Roosevelt was often referred to by other wealth patricians as “a traitor to his class,” because he championed the interests of the lower economic classes. They expected him to be faithful to ways that were wrong.
So often we see people criticized for being “unfaithful” or “disloyal” because they refuse to support their friends or team-mates or coaches or colleagues in wrong-doing, because they refuse to accept sinfulness just because it is considered part of their class or race or gender or nation.
Faithfulness, loyalty, are perverse if they are pursued in the practice of injustice, of cheating, of wronging others. People who expect loyalty when they cheat and do wrong do not deserve loyalty.
Like all of us, they need prayer, and they need kindness, but to be loyal to them in wrong-doing is the worst kind of friendship.
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