LOYALTY IS THE VERY FABRIC OF COMMUNITY. Devoid of basic trust in some kind of mutuality of commitment, relationships cannot prosper. Without loyalty, father and son will live as hated strangers, families will disintegrate, and culture will become bestial. Only invented taboos and fearsome superstitions can restrain such a murderous society from utter criminality.

When loyalty is lost, the very fabric of relationship unravels. Even the disloyal depend on someone else's loyalty. The philandering husband will bitterly resent his accountant's embezzlement. The bribed politician howls over his wife's adultery. The issue is not merely hypocrisy; it is a failure to comprehend the very nature of the virtue of loyalty. No one can translate into relationships a virtue that is fundamentally misunderstood. No society can expect loyalty to anchor its relationships once treachery becomes admirable. The seams of community are ripped asunder when treachery becomes an acquired virtue. In a society thus brutalized, no one is safe. Family ties mean little, and friendship means even less. Life without loyalty is fragile in the jungle of betrayal.

If loyalty is understood only in terms of isolated relationships, disillusionment and bitterness are inescapable. That is to say, a disloyal man is disloyal in his character rather than in respect to particular relationships. The prevailing wisdom of contemporary society contends that marital loyalty is irrelevant to job performance.

Quite the contrary! A man is not simply disloyal to his wife; he is disloyal. The wise employer will reason, "If he will be disloyal to his wife, why should I expect loyalty?"

The president of a certain company finally reduced the candidates for a certain opening to two final applicants. Both were very good. In fact, it grieved him not to hire them both. At dinner following the interview, the CEO analyzed the eager young hopefuls across from him.

"Do you mind if I ask a question now?" one of the young men asked. "My wife advised me to get a clear reading on one point, and I really trust her counsel."

The CEO totally ignored the question. Instead he seized the moment to test the other candidate. "What about you? Did your wife send you off with any questions in hand?"

"Hardly," the young man snickered. "She wouldn't know what to ask."

The old businessman chuckled conspiratorially and leaned close, hoping to draw the young man out.

"No head for business, eh?"

"No head for much of anything, actually," he answered. "A classic beauty from Boston. As they say, the porch light is on, but nobody is home."

As the two men shared the joke, the boss noticed that the other applicant sipped his coffee and ignored the jest.

"And your wife?" the employer asked the candidate who said he had a question from his wife. "Does she always tell you what to ask?"

"She certainly doesn't control me, if that's what you mean. She is very bright, and I trust her advice in many areas of life. She's really a wonderful person. I wish you could get to know her."

In that one moment the CEO knew he had his man. Someone who will mock his own wife was not for him. Loyalty was clearly in the character of the man he hired, and character was what he wanted.

The moral and social consequences of venerating the wicked are substantial and incredibly shortsighted beyond words. Loyalty is not a matter of trading off. One does not gain six points for voting a straight ticket, then lose three for company disloyalty, finishing at a good, solid plus three. Efforts to isolate or compartmentalize loyalty from the professional aspect of life are misguided and dangerous. A man does not simply act disloyally in some particular arena of his life, unrelated to the rest. A man is either loyal or he is not.

Merritt was a secure, four-term congressman. Only twenty-four hours ago he seemed invincible. Now he held the front page in his hand like a man holding his own death sentence. "Indicted!" the headline screamed. The article went on to outline the charges of influence-peddling and money-laundering. To add insult to injury, his secretary, Margaret, had revealed (along with other things) their long-standing affair in a full-color pictorial spread in Playboy. He calmed his jangled nerves and massaged his temples. Don't panic! He was sure he could plea-bargain the charges against him down to a misdemeanor and plead nolo contendre, taking a reduced punishment. He must show a sad disappointment with his own humanity but never admit culpability.

Later, in a painfully emotional press conference, he would denounce the newspapers for pouncing on the irrelevant sex scandal. His teary little mouse of a wife would stand bravely at his side while he suffered like a martyr. He played the scene in his mind. "My wife and I have come through this difficult time. We have a new depth through this incident, and our relationship is closer now than ever before." At that point he must embrace her protectively. "We believe the voters of this district are sophisticated and intelligent enough to separate these personal matters from my performance as their congressman." He would then boldly announce his candidacy for reelection. Oh, sure, many votes would be lost, but he knew he could count on the evangelical vote. He was "right" on their issues, and Christians love to forgive people. In fact, he would be hailed as a hero by many.

This was not going to be fun, but he could make it through. Life goes on, he thought.

Loyalty is the willingness, because of relational commitment, to deflect praise, admiration and success onto another. This loyalty may well be at great personal expense, but it will edify and bless its object.

Loyalty never usurps authority. It refuses to accept inappropriate love or praise that might properly exalt another. Loyalty is the glue that holds relationships together, makes families functional and armies victorious. Loyalty is the fabric of society. Without loyalty, no enlisted man can dare to hope that his general cares whether he lives or dies, and no captain can expect an inconvenient order to be obeyed. Without loyalty, marriage becomes a competitive minefield, companies become dangerously paranoid, and ruthless power politics will turn bishops into Machiavellian princes.

Loyalty is the basic element that validates and cements relationships. If husbands are disloyal to their wives, if children are disloyal to their parents, parents to children, employees to employers, there is no secure relationship, and the fabric of community soon unravels.

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