The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.


Loyalty is Overrated

When our faith must be bigger than family, friends or saving face.

by Bruce Reyes-Chow

Gospel Reading:  Luke 14:24-33

For Sunday, September 8, 2013: Year C – Lectionary 23

There are few things in life more difficult that standing up against a friend or family member about anything: religion, politics, family systems, etc. Yet there is no mistaking Christ’s call to us in this passage to remember that even above personal relationship, power or possessions, Christ must take precedent.

Easier said than done, Mr. Jesus.

Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s easy to say, “Jesus Christ and his teachers guide my every step, action or thought,” but when it comes right down to it, most of us want to be liked by other people, especially our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends and on and on.

So when one member of our circle does or says something that causes us to doubt another person’s motives, intentions or actions, we have a choice to make: are we loyal to that person, no matter what…or are we faithful to Christ above all?

High Tension Topics

This tension always pops up for me when it comes to how we engage in conversations about passionate “hot button” social issues such as homosexuality, racism, sexism, etc. So often I see people for whom I have great affection act in ways that go very much against the ways in which I think Jesus hopes for us to act towards our “enemies.” Rather than clothe, feed and bless their enemies, they spew hatred, mockery and dehumanizing rhetoric right back at them.

Granted, they probably feel the same way about me, thinking I am soft of conviction, lacking in passion and even acquiescent to the enemy, but therein lies the dilemma: are we to be loyal to one another giving a “pass” because we are friends or are we faithful to Christ challenging one another even to the point of risking the relationship?

Do we speak, challenge, risk?

Now in most cases, the choices are not so stark or easy, but if you are like me, you know when they are in front of you, so there are some choices to make in how we respond. Do we speak up against our friend, do we challenge the actions of our mothers, do we risk division of a friendship?

In the end for most of us, these decisions will not mean that we shun people when we disagree about a social issue nor will we take it upon ourselves to reign down God’s fiery judgment because we think the other is make grave errors in judgment, rather the choice is whether or not we allow these relationship to ultimately trump what and how Christ is calling us to be in the world.

The Hardest Question

These are the kinds of questions that Jesus demands us to address if we are going to be faithful followers and disciples. But the bottom line is:  Do we allow ourselves to step into that space of faithfulness that Jesus calls “hate” that may even be directed towards us?

Like I said, earlier, easier said than done.

Bruce Reyes-Chow is a San Francisco based writer, speaker and consultant who muses on faith, race, parenting and technology. Through his experience as a pastor, organizer and blogger he is committed to expressing a Christian faith that is beautifully complex, unimaginably just and excruciatingly gracious. Bruce is a frequent event speaker and is the author of the eBook, The Definitive-ish Guide for Using Social Media in the Church (2012), and But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race (2013). You can connect with Bruce at or via @breyeschow on most social media sites


  1. Amigo Cowboy says:

    I think you nailed it–easier said than done!

    The major issues of our day, as you point out, cannot be ignored. There are any number of branches that we can put ourselves out on for the sake of genuine, authentic, life-affirming relationship with Jesus.

    That said, a couple of things come to mind. First, I think these battles are just as hard-fought over the seemingly “miniscule,” “irrelevant,” “minutia” of church life. For example, there are fewer places more apt to invite invective than a church choir, small group that’s been meeting since the year1559 in the same room, or any similar example. Start picking hymns that Martin Luther sang (the ones no one recognizes), start jacking with a meeting time, or tell lifelong church goers that they must face a choice between “same-old same old” and growing (which is synonymous with change), and one will quickly find him/herself the object of derision, hatred, and assorted nasty names.

    Second, it occurs to me that the crosses people bear are as different from one another as snowflakes. There’s the young Christian woman with six kids and a deadbeat husband that might find running fingers on a chalkboard easier than getting to church on time. Or the group that goes to the jail and witnesses to inmates, sometimes hearing stories that make their stomach turn. And on it goes. The point is that our life context helps us see the cross(es) we must bear…and the corresponding empathy (that we all bear crosses) has the potential to love people more clearly and fully.

    So sure, I think the potential is there everyday to step into…it. What I think I’m going to spend some time doing tomorrow will involve inviting people to reflect on what their cross(es) look like. A have a bunch of them that I’ve acquired over the years, so I might even use some of them as visuals. All of them are quite beautiful, meant to hang on walls as ornaments. And all of them represent people with very real crosses…and of course the Founder. I’m thinking the irony might be a bit too subtle, but hey, what can I say…I have as hard a time as the next guy inviting hatred into my day. Cheers.

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