Do you, my readers, mull over the concepts of integrity and loyalty as much as I doâ€”which is almost on a daily basis? I was reminded again the other day by a newspaper story. A single mother was enduring the pain of seeing both her son and her daughter convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murder. In the case of her daughter, it was a purse-snatching incident that went wrong and an elderly woman was knocked down and hit her head and died. The mother testified how much she loved her children, but she said that she could not deny the fact of their guilt and she knew they had to pay the consequences.
I often read the very oppositeâ€”that of parents or other close relatives giving false alibis to protect their loved ones when they know theyâ€™re guilty.
I was a single mom for many years and had many sleepless nights in the process of raising an adolescent son. I remember talking to him one night after we had watched a TV documentary together. The parents featured on the program had lied to protect their son who was in trouble with the law. I told my son I would never do that. I told him that integrity rated higher than love and loyalty. I meant it, but would I back down in the end and allow loyalty to prevail? My own track record has not always been consistent. Honesty has on occasion taken a back seat to loyalty.
What does a wife do when she learns her husband has twice molested a foster child before the child was reassigned to another family? Does she report him to authorities and seek justiceâ€”justice that may lead to a long prison sentence? I know of just such a case. A minister (with a degree in counseling) later told the wife she had done the right thing to remain silent because her first priority was to her husbandâ€”her loyalty to him. Was the counselor right?
In recent months and years I have witnessed time and again the situation of colleagues and acquaintances putting loyalty above integrity as My Calvin Seminary Story unfolded. Without regard for the facts of the case, many people automatically sided with the seminaryâ€”people who would claim that integrity is of the highest priority.
But isnâ€™t loyalty also a quality of good character? When a company CEO cites loyalty to his workers in his decision to keep manufacturing in Michigan, we praise him. When the President is described as loyal to his staff, thatâ€™s seen as a good character trait. When big sister defends little brother on the school playground, we extol her.
I suspect that any debate over integrity vs. loyalty would be a slam-dunk for integrity. The problem is that most of us arenâ€™t even aware that in everyday life, loyalty often wins out.
What does the Bible say on this? Is there anyone out there who can offer some biblical principles that would guide us? Are there any biblical examples of these two character traits clashing?
From a very practical standpoint, how can we make people sensitive to this matter in their own lives and challenge them to be prepared to make God-honoring decisions when loyalty and integrity butt heads?