The word "loyal" never appears one time in the Bible, yet it describes one of the greatest of all Christian virtues. Loyalty is taught in Proverbs: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Prov. 27:6). Herein true loyalty is defined, which is not to be confused with friendship, fellowship or camaraderie. Genuine loyalty is seldom a "feel good" quality. Our depth of loyalty is always tested when we are challenged through conflict. The Christians response to conflict is found through "speaking the truth in love, [that we all] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:15). Do you have a friend? Has that friendship been tested to the limit? Will you tell your friend what he wants to hear, or will you tell him the truth? Your choice is a measure of your own level of loyalty to your friend. Jesus exemplifies true loyalty, when he shoots absolutely straight and tells us all, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). How can we too learn and exercise this lesson of the law of loyalty to our friends?
by Jerry Gentry
"Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak" (Psa 12:1-2).
The Bible shoots straight as an arrow to the subject of loyalty, when it says: "He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue" (Prov. 28:23). Often loyalty is confused with flattery and political correctness. Loyalty is just the opposite. Genuine loyalty is defined in our willingness to tell others the truth in love, even when it hurts.
Why do the President of the United States and most other politicians employ press secretaries, commonly called "spin doctors?" These politicians employ such masters of mind control in order to avoid accountability for their sins. They know what is right and what is wrong, in their hearts.They discuss those things privately, among their advisors and "damage control" specialists. But they choose not to face the facts publicly. They are disloyal to their constituents. They cloud the facts, through "spin." They deny any truth they dislike, which exposes their dark side, while they endeavor to discredit anyone who would open their wickedness to the light of day. Such deception is akin to the "bait and switch" tactics of dishonest salesmen.
When Jehoshaphat of old "set of the Levites, and of the priests, and of the chief of the fathers of Israel, for the judgment of the LORD, and for controversies. . . he charged them, saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully, and with a perfect heart" (2Ch 19:8-9). Here was a king who operated in the fear of the LORD. Here is defined the attitude of all who will live by the law of loyalty, "faithfully, and with a perfect heart." The age old tactic of avoiding unpleasant truth in our lives is to deny the truth and to discredit the messenger.
When the failing of disloyalty is exposed in our lives, we first become uncomfortable. Like the politician, we initially dont want to admit, "Thats me!" If we are not careful, we will deflect attention to ourselves, by pointing a finger to the failings of someone else, usually the messenger. We see such tactics in the national arena, almost nightly on the news. Some politician is exposed for an illegal campaign contribution, or some other questionable behaviour. Instead of coming clean with the public, he admits he was there when the money was given, but says that he did not know it was a "campaign contribution." You know how such stories go.
As time progresses, the politician or his "spin doctor" deflects the issue from the politician by raising questions about political enemies or anyone who has told such a "vicious lie." The spin doctor declares they are the ones who are guilty. Charges are thrown back and forth, just like little children in sandbox, when they throw sand in one anothers faces!
Such disloyalty to constituents is seen clearly in the political arena. The challenge is for us to bring the lesson close to home, where we can personally apply of the law of loyalty. A few examples will hopefully help bring the point home.
David, a teenage boy is a long time faithful member of a fundamental church in Ohio, where he commonly gets together with friends of that church. Outwardly he sets forth near perfect behavior. But he and Susan, a member of that same church, have an ongoing private relationship and have become involved secretly in immorality. Davids best friend Jonathan learns about Davids immorality with Susan, but covers for him through silence.
Is Jonathan loyal to David? He is a friend, who wants the best for his friend David, even confronts him and tells him that what he is doing is wrong. David ignores Jonathans advice and continues anyway. What does Jonathan do now? If he takes it to Davids parents, he knows they will not believe that their "perfect little boy" David could be doing such a thing. So. . . he keeps his mouth shut. . . until, one day Susan comes up pregnant. Then Davids cover is blown big time.
David would have been far better off had his friend Jonathan been willing to expose his sin earlier, to Davids parents, when the consequences would have been far less. Now David and Susan must enter married life together, under "forced" circumstances. Long before the babys second birthday, David realizes how immature and out of control his behavior was back then. He now feels ashamed. Also, he resents his friend Jonathan, who knew, but did not expose his sin and bring him to repentance earlier. He feels robbed and strapped. At a time when he should be attending college and pursuing his education, he must work at a menial job in order to support Susan and their baby.
Another example involves Pastor Carey of that same church, who is quite a powerful pulpiteer. He commands audiences of thousands when he preaches the gospel, but he has yet successfully to command his own family. He lost one son, who ran away and got into drugs and alcohol, and has not returned home in four years. His daughter now struggles with a troubled marriage. She has a two year son conceived out of wedlock. Her name is Susan, the wife of David in the above example. When Susan Carey became pregnant almost three years ago, Pastor Carey was stunned. He did what every respectable Christian father should do. He counselled that she and David get married quickly. Abortion was not an option. Marriage was the only option now. The child needed a mother and a father. Even so, Pastor Carey worried about what people think of him now.
But why had Susan gone against what her parents had taught her? She had been a faithful soloist and choir member. She was to graduate from high school the following year, but had to drop out of school to avoid embarrassment, as her pregnancy progressed. She had gotten married and never returned to school. It is a sad burden Pastor and Mrs. Carey still carry every day. He often feels hampered in his counselling, when he reads instructions to ministers: "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly" (Titus 1:6). Susan was their last child. He must simply go on, unable to explain, unable to fully understand why Susan had gone astray. He knows she is now forgiven, but the consequences live on for all concerned.
Members of his church have suspected all along. They have tried to tell this master of the Bible that he had a personal failing in his own life. He would not listen. He considered them to be disloyal. They have tried to show him how he yields to his strong willed wife, who is outwardly quite over protective of their children. Deacons have resigned after conflicts over discipline of the Carey children. Some even left the church. Perceptive church members have tried to tell Pastor Carey how his wife has systematically driven her own children away from the church. Mrs. Carey is the outwardly "perfect" type, who supports her husband impeccably, who seldom shows any outward signs of her own out of control nature. She sings in the choir, plays piano for church and keeps in the background otherwise. She never volunteers to teach womens classes, yet all know that she wields enormous power quietly behind the scenes.
As their children grew older and left home, her over protective tendency was turned toward her husband. Where he tends to let conflicts slide, and avoids confrontation, she steps in and voices her strong opinions. She is known to have conflicts with other women of the church. She has voiced negative opinions about certain deacons, who have tried to bring their minister and her husband into accountability, over Susans manner of dress at times and a sons unruly behavior in church. When possible, she screens her husbands phone calls now, in an effort to prevent certain people from talking to him. She tells her closest friends how weak she feels her husband is, how she has to "protect him" from others. Deep down, she is frustrated at his refusal to put his foot down, when others are clearly out of line. Secretly, he fears her rejection, which makes him even more timid.
All her efforts now have backfired. Her husband is a God fearing man, who knows and lives by the Bible as best he understands it. He wants to be a mans man, but he simply does not know how. His self-willed wife overshadows him privately, even frustrates his efforts at times. She occasionally flies out of control in public anger over various issues, as choir members have witnessed. He allows her efforts to frustrate the contribution of others, through her own self will, even when he sees it. He feels powerless, intimidated, controlled.
Some women of the church whisper that Mrs. Carey is still unconverted, though they dare voice such an opinion in public. She performs many good works of service to others. She has confessed the name of Jesus Christ. But has she been broken of her self will? Is she a yielded believer? Her pride as expressed in her judgmental condemnation of others is a dead give away. No doubt, Pastor Carey is a converted man, given over to the Lord Jesus Christ. But his own weakness has often gotten the best of him. He avoids conflict like the plague. He tends to attract superficial supporters, yes men and women, who always agree with him. He cultivates "loyalty" in others superficially through identification of a "common enemy," usually one of the deacons who tries to help him! It is hard for him to warm up to anyone who would expose his weaknesses and give him correction, though he has publicly asked for correction. His wife plays off his weakness frequently, by angrily accusing those who would expose his dark side in order to help him.
Though this church has grown over his twenty years as the Pastor, various "in crowds" and others in this church have talked. They cannot see how the problem will ever be resolved unless Pastor Carey "comes clean." It would require public confession and prayer. But they fear his confession might be just another confession of how he has failed his wife, as he has confessed publicly many times before. His previous confessions tended to cause Mrs. Carey to justify her own self-willed controlling nature even more. It is a catch twenty two situation for Pastor Carey. What can he do?
Members who love them both are praying for a work of God to be done in the lives of Pastor and Mrs. Carey. They know that only God can bring this man, who has preached so powerfully to others, into full Godly sorrow, and give him the power to stand firm against the intimidation he feels from his own self-willed wife. Only God can do a work in Mrs. Careys life, and give her the humble, broken heart of Sarah, who feared God and "obeyed Abraham, calling him lord" (1Pet. 3:6). Only God can bring this strong, self-willed woman to genuine repentance. Pastor Carey has privately prayed for many years for his wife, that she would come to full repentance, as Paul told Timothy: "Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things" (1Tim. 3:11). Pastor Carey has been patient, even to a fault. He yet continues to wait on God, even now as he continues to avoid all direct conflict with others, including his wife.
From the above examples and scriptures, we clearly see that the law of loyalty is defined, not in terms of constant agreement with our friends, though we certainly do not want to be disagreeable in our spirit. Loyalty is not defined in terms of how we feel or the relative nature of our fellowship or friendship or our camaraderie. Loyalty is not found in the identification of and coming against a "common enemy," which is so often the case when loyalty is misdefined. Loyalty is not defined in covering for a brother, through silence, when we know he is living in sin.
Loyalty is defined in our willingness to speak the truth in love, at all times, as the Psalmist declares. "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head" (Ps. 141:5). Open rebuke is better than secret love.
The law of loyalty is found when we tell it like it is, in love. The law of loyalty is expressed in our willingness to be our brothers keeper, as the Bible teaches throughout. We must speak the truth in love, always, especially when conflicts arise. When brothers and sisters fall into sin, genuine loyalty will say the truth without condemnation, with a design for restoration, even when it hurts. Christian, it is high time we all learned and expressed the law of loyalty to all our friends.