Loyalty. That’s an odd word that — with the exception of marketers (loyalty points or loyalty rewards) — is used little in our culture. It is probably demonstrated even less.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church at Colossae, he mentions several people in his closing remarks. A couple of those mentions I find intriguing. “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you… Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you…” (Colossians 4:10, 12)
Now you might be thinking, “Wow, Tom, that is exciting… or NOT! What’s your point?”
Well, Paul mentions these same guys in his letter to Philemon. And, by the way, those two letters — Colossians and Philemon — were written in close proximity of time to one another. But in the Philemon letter, Paul refers to Epaphras as “my fellow prisoner” and Aristarchus simply sends greetings.
That’s backward from what it says in Colossians, right?
Multiple commentators suggest that the “fellow prisoner” idea means that Paul had an arrangement — as a non-violent and respected criminal — whereby he could have someone join him in his incarceration. That person would help Paul, perhaps assist in taking care of him. There is, after all, a strong indication that Paul’s eyesight was failing. Yet, such a person would have to make a choice — at least for a time — to live the life of a prisoner. No special treatment.
So, it would seem that perhaps Aristarchus and Epaphras took turns. Maybe a couple weeks at a time. Perhaps even a couple months at a time. Whatever the actual timeframe, this looks a whole lot like “In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
There was a loyalty in Epaphras and Aristarchus that was not only heartfelt but clearly demonstrated.
Oh that we demonstrated such loyalty today in the Church.