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The Meaning of Loyalty

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Archives / 1948 / December



The Meaning of Loyalty

Harry B. Lundquist

By HARRY B. LUNDQUIST, Superintendent of the Antillian Union Mission


Loyalty is a two-way street. It is something that is exercised from below to those above. But it is also exercised from above to those below. If this were not so, it would not long endure, but would degenerate into a mere condition of fealty, which is defined as follows: "Fidelity to one's lord; the obligation or oath of a feudal tenant or vassal to be faithful to his lord."

Loyalty is a strong word, connoting as it does the feeling or sentiment (often strong or even enthusiastic) accompanying a sense of alle­giance. It also partakes in a sense of the mean­ing of homage or devotion. It is that relation that springs from mutual respect and love and characterizes the enjoyable experience which is shared by the sovereign or employer as well as by the subject or employee.

In a time of national crisis, not to exercise this quality is tantamount to treason, and is punishable by death. To exercise it "beyond the demands of duty"—a phrase so often found in citations for bravery during the world wars —is to Make oneself the object of veneration on the part of other subjects. Military annals as well as history itself are replete with outstand­ing examples of the exercise of this quality.

Nathan Hale, the early American, stands out from other patriots perhaps because of the fact that his loyalty represented the highest type, and that which more nearly explains the full significance of the word. During the Revolu­tionary War, although a loyal American, he re­sided in England, where he made good use of his time and opportunities in keeping the strug­gling American Government fully informed as to movements of troops, trends of opinion, and any other thing that might be of service to his people in winning the unequal struggle for free­dom. To the Americans, he was a member of the intelligence department; to the British, a spy.

Hale's trial and condemnation to be shot as a spy is common knowledge. But the risks he took, the attitude he assumed when facing the firing squad, and the death he died are anything but common. Every schoolboy knows the dia­logue which took place between him and the officer of the British Army in charge of his execution. When asked whether he had any statement to make before being launched into eternity, with head erect and in unfaltering tones, he replied, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." That attitude is a heritage which is worth infinitely more to posterity than a few years added to the life of anyone, no matter how valuable.

Loyalty is a quality greatly needed in the world today. Loyalty connotes all the higher moral qualities—truthfulness, diligence, integ­rity, faithfulness. Often it may mean putting the interests of another above personal gain or pleasure. It is that quality ,which leads its pos­sessor to do his duty, at whatever cost to him­self, even to the extent of paying the supreme price.

Loyalty may be manifested by staying an extra hour after regular hours, by maintaining a discreet silence when sorely tempted to talk, by keeping patient when one does not under­stand a certain procedure. In other words, it means the strict application of the golden rule. It is the opposite of the very human tendency to "look out for number one," or, to place the law of self-preservation before the divine law, "in honour preferring one another."

Disloyalty is that despicable trait which was conceived in the heart of God's most favored created being, Lucifer, and which transformed him into an enemy of God and man. As a re­sult of this transformation the universe was filled with suspicion, and the earth with woe and death. It is poisonous fruit, growing on a good stock. Like weeds, it grows without culti­vation.

Since the beginning of earth's history, there have been many manifestations of this noxious characteristic. Disloyalty to God and to family induced Cain to nourish a feeling of envy which led him to stain the earth with the first human blood. Aaron and Miriam indulged in a display of disloyal feelings which had to be expiated by public humiliation. Ahab's divided loyalty—sometimes worse than open disloyalty—cost him his honor and his throne. Peter's display of this same cowardly trait caused him hours of the most intense mental suffering. And Judas, by betraying the Saviour of the world with a kiss, surrendered himself into the hands of the enemy of God, became the unwitting instrument em­ployed in the fulfillment of prophecy, and the unwilling standard-bearer of that small but des­picable army of traducers and traitors, who from the beginning have constituted the sourest note in human history.

In loyalty, as in other desirable qualities, Jesus has given us the example. Jesus well knew that only by observing the most unswerving loyalty could He attain the object of His earthly pilgrimage. Whereas His great work was un­doubtedly that of rescuing man from the pit, nevertheless, no less important was His work of vindicating His Father's name before the universe as a God of love. In the accomplish­ment of this dual task He could have failed by one angry word or inflection, or by one vexed look or feeling.

Loyalty stands out in pristine purity in Christ's last conversation with the craven Pilate. When sneeringly asked by this magistrate, "So you are a king then?" how easy it would have been for the Saviour to have said, "Well, no, not exactly. You see, Pilate, I am the Sov­ereign of a spiritual kingdom, and have no as­pirations whatever to wield the scepter of Caesar." But Christ did not daily. He was hon­est. He was forthright. And so He replied, "Exactly so: for this reason was I born and came into the world, to bear witness to the truth." How simple and how beautiful that re­ply. And although it cost Him His precious life, His death saved mankind and the universe from the guilt and condemnation of sin.

Let it be noted that Christ's loyalty to His Father and His Father's law, and His unwill­ingness to deviate from this relationship by so much as a jot or a tittle, was what provoked His enemies to crucify Him, and thus make Him the world's Saviour, and the great Vindi­cator of God and His honor before the universe. No wonder that when Jesus was crucified and pronounced those words, "It is finished," the unfallen beings of the universe rejoiced. Loy­alty is always stronger than disloyalty.

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