Where Does Your Loyalty Lie?

Written By: Jacob Ley


September 19, 2023

In 1941, James Welch, the Director of Religious Broadcasting for the BBC, wrote to a professor at Oxford University and asked if he would be willing to help in “our work of religious broadcasting.” He suggested giving a series of lectures on the Christian faith. Ultimately, the professor, Clive Staples Lewis, would oblige, giving lectures on the Christian faith as he understood it. Ultimately, those initial talks would result in four different series of talks that focused on providing an apologetic for the Christian faith. Eventually, those talks would be transcribed and edited into the book Mere Christianity.

One of Lewis’s most famous apologetic arguments in Mere Christianity relates to the divinity of Jesus, often referred to as the “Lunatic, Liar or Lord” argument.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Lewis pushes his audience to think through what they believe about Jesus. He doesn’t leave room for someone to sit on the fence. They must choose what they truly believe about Jesus because that informs their response to him. Lewis rightly connects this back to the very claims that Jesus himself made.

Too often in a post-Christianized Western culture, we can approach Jesus with an indifference that he did not intend us to have. Many people in our society have encountered the idea of Jesus, maybe from growing up in or around the church or from stereotyped images in culture, but have never considered what they actually believe about him. But what we believe matters because it informs our response. As Lewis said, if you believe he’s crazy or a liar, then certainly dismiss him. But if you believe he is Lord, a different response is called for. So, the question is, what do you believe about Jesus?

Jesus’ family brings another claim about Jesus, that he is crazy. So they show up at the house where Jesus is and are stuck on the outside because the crowd is so large there. A symbol that we will see throughout Mark’s Gospel is that in Jesus’ kingdom, those we assume should be on the inside are actually on the outside, and vice versa. But, as they show up, they send and call for him. Clearly, because they think he is crazy, they do not show up to be with him and submit to his mission; instead, they want him to submit to theirs. Again, what they believe about Jesus dictates their response to him.

But Jesus responds to their call by posing a question. He asks, “Who is my mother and brothers?” In Jesus’ culture, this is a loaded question. The family was the center of the lives of his listeners. It was where identity and purpose were found. To ask the question “Who is my family?” is to ask a question of identity and allegiance. It asks, “Who (or what) is my life defined by?”

Jesus makes the answer clear. Our lives are to be defined by God and doing His will. Therefore, those who are his true family pursue that end. What is God’s will? Jesus had already set this earlier when he called His disciples in Mark 3:14; it is to be with Jesus and to be sent by Him on His mission. God’s will is that we would be with Jesus and live for Jesus.

And so, we see Jesus again compelling commitment towards himself, but he does it by reorienting their family loyalty and asking, what is your life defined by? Following Jesus is reprioritizing our lives around him, even shifting our relational loyalties.

Growing up, my dad would often remind me of the commitment that a family has to one another by reminding my siblings and me that “blood is thicker than water.” This signifies that family relationships take priority over others and that our commitment to the family comes first. The phrase originates in German literature, where it is said to signify that the waters of baptism could not erase the bond of family blood. In many cultures, the family bond is the priority or commitment of one’s life.

However, this is completely opposite of what Jesus is saying. The blood bonds of family loyalty in Jesus’ kingdom are ultimately the ones who are submitted to God. He is the unifying factor that draws people in unity together. Therefore, Jesus is reminding them that what marks a disciple in his kingdom is their commitment to God’s will, which reorients their relational priorities.

So, who [or what] is your life defined by? What is your highest relational commitment? To follow Jesus is to reorient our family loyalties around Him and our entire lives. It is to make God’s will the center of why and how we live. To follow Jesus is to reorient your relational priorities around Him and make God’s will the central marker of how you live in relationship with others. Will you give your allegiance to him today by putting your faith in his death for your sins and his resurrection from the dead and surrendering to him as the Lord of your life?