Divided Loyalties

Taking a spiritual look at events and issues of special interest to young people.

DIVIDED loyalties. I guess that's a fancy way of saying we're feeling pulled in two directions--sometimes more! When, for example, you want to do what your friends are doing, but you also know you should obey your parents' wishes. It can be pretty confusing. So, what do you do?

Here's what I did. When I was in high school I dated a guy I knew my parents wouldn't have approved of if they'd heard what people said about him at school. Rumor had it that he took drugs, was very wild at parties--I'm sure you can imagine the rest.

Each time I went out with him I felt pulled. If my folks knew about him, I'd never see him again. But how could I explain why I couldn't see him? Because you see, while he was with me he never took drugs, was never wild at parties, and never tried to talk me into having sex with him! He was a perfect gentleman the whole time.

I had been studying the teachings of Christian Science more deeply that year. So it was natural for me to pray about this relationship, as I would pray about any problem confronting me. I prayed--not to do my will, or my friend's or my parents' will--but to know what God's will was for me. I didn't want my decision about dating him to be based on anyone's opinions, even my own. I did, simply and sincerely, want to follow God's direction.

I thought a lot about the Fifth Commandment, found in Exodus, ''Honour thy father and thy mother'' (20:12). I didn't want to be deceiving either my parents or my friend. I wanted to wholeheartedly turn to God for guidance. Because I knew that my--and everyone's--real Father and Mother was God. In fact, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, writes in her Miscellaneous Writings, ''Honor thy Father and Mother, God'' (p. 154). I knew that I needed first of all to obey God's commands, and t hat any other loyalty was second to that.

I understood, however, that this didn't mean that I could do whatever I wanted without my parents' permission. But it did mean that I could learn how to turn to God myself for guidance. I also found that obeying the good guidance of our parents helps us obey the commands of God. It helps us because we learn to turn to man's source of protection and guidance, our Father-Mother, God.

As I continued praying, the divided loyalty that had disturbed me so much was resolved. The relationship faded naturally away as we gradually went our separate ways. I knew that I had done the right thing in this case, because right before my friend and I stopped dating he told me why he enjoyed our relationship. He said he enjoyed going out with me because he wasn't expected to drink, do drugs, and have sex. He said he had learned from this that he could exclude these activities from his dating experience.

What my friend sensed when we dated was his real selfhood, which is spiritual, made in God's image and likeness. And, you know what? He liked that selfhood--so did I. He liked what he was beginning to think and express for the first time in years. For, you see, my friend, too, had a divided loyalty. He had been pulled in two different directions for a long time. The belief that he was a mortal dominated by a mortal body (and had to act like it) was trying to pull him away from learning more of the

reality of his spiritual selfhood and living up to it.

We can all have divided loyalties to resolve. But perhaps the biggest decision we come across in our experience is whether to give our loyalty to matter or Spirit. It sure seems like we are made of matter. In reality, though, as Christ Jesus showed us, our selfhood is entirely spiritual. We are made in the image of God, who is Spirit. As we understand our genuine, spiritual identity, we see that we are always governed by our eternal Father-Mother God.

Divided loyalties are a much bigger issue than one individual against another, or parents against children. They show us that we need to choose between matter and Spirit. But when we learn that it is God who demands our loyalty, we see that we can always turn to Him in prayer. We don't need to struggle with divided loyalties, since man is already spiritual, loyal to God, good, above all.

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