Intro: Merriam-Webster defines divided loyalty as ‘a feeling of strong support for opposing groups.’ It’s like a person staggering; struggling to get balanced. At times, we can find ourselves questioning where to place our loyalty, because we may desire to love and serve God, but we also want to make ourselves and everyone else around us happy, too. I hope we can all agree that finding oneness with God while at the same time trying to find oneness with this worldly culture will never happen and we must be all right with it. “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Gal 5:17). We cannot serve two masters (Mat 6:24).
In our passage today, the Apostle James [brother of Jesus] reminds 1st Century Jewish Christians that divided loyalty is like ‘adultery’ and ‘idolatry.’ Very simply, God commands our loyalty: We must not have any other god but the Lord (Ex 20:2-3). We cannot be divided in our loyalty to the Lord, because to do so is to be unfaithful to him and his rule over our lives. We cannot love our desires, others, or this world more than God. To love the Lord is to love him with our whole being regardless of what Satan serves up on the silver platter of this world. We need the Lord to deliver us from evil. To remain faithful or undivided to God is to humble ourselves and exalt the Lord as our Rescuer.
James 4:4-10 NLT
4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. 6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.