It is easy to be an extremist. We find comfort in black and white thinking. It’s easier to put people and thoughts and ideas into boxes labeled “good” and “bad”. We find it comforting to have concrete views and opinions that hold no shades of grey. This is the same reason why loyalty can be so reassuring. Loyalty affords us stability- the stability to know that a friend will always be there, a pay-check will invariably arrive from our employer, or that expectations will be the same tomorrow as they were today. Loyalty offers us solid rocks to build our life upon.
But what happens when our loyalty keeps us stuck in places that are no longer healthy for us? What happens when we grow and change, and suddenly, we no longer fit in places that we once found comfortable. Suddenly we find ourselves in the conundrum of having to choose to stay loyal to our past or to stay faithful to our self.
2020 has been a year of extremes, and as those extremes have rocked our world, it has driven us to cling to any bedrock in our life where we can keep our feet planted. Our loyalties have been challenged at every turn. When faced with home learning and working from home, we have had to choose how to be loyal to our job and our children at the same time. Amongst heated politics, we have had to choose between loyalty to our core beliefs of right and wrong versus towing a political party line. In amongst all of these extremes, it is easy to fall into a default decision of extreme loyalty.
This isn’t new or limited to this time and place. In the Bible, there is a story where spiritual extremist tried to catch Jesus out. They asked Jesus if they should pay their taxes to a corrupt government who were occupying and oppressing the Jewish people. Jesus’ response was “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”
It would have been easy for Jesus to take the bait of extreme ideology. Instead, he offered us the example of being radically moderate.
Being radically moderate in our modern-day means that we have to sit in the uncomfortable space of non-conforming. You find yourself to be far too “right-wing” for the left, and entirely too “left-wing” for the right. You find yourself not being enough of a go-getter for your boss, and not involved enough with your children’s home learning for the school’s liking.
To be radically moderate is to be loyal to your own values, even if they challenge what loyalty has traditionally meant in your relationships with others. It’s being willing to tow the hard line in one instance with your teenagers, and in the next showing unwavering compassion and affection. It’s being there when a friend needs you in the middle of the night, and not answering the phone when you have found five minutes to be all alone.
Where in your life can you give yourself permission to be radically moderate. How can being radically moderate help you find a new definition of loyalty that works in this extreme season that is 2020?