Guilt is wiped out by loyalty and faith,
and the fear of the LORD makes mortals turn from evil.
My dad surprised me once when I heard him asked what is rare in ministry. He paused and said: “Loyalty.”
Loyalty, especially to the truth, is rare.
Much more common is the person who works hard to convince themselves that what they wish to be true is true, avoiding anyone who might be able to “defeat” their convenient arguments. At one point in graduate school, I realized that I must not insulate myself from winsome, rational people with opposing points of view. I could supersaturate in literature that agree with what I wished to be true (in this case a more liberal form of Christianity than I now hold) while avoiding any difficult conversations with people who might slow down my convenient evolution to where I wanted to go.
Guilty folly can have a certain cleverness to protect itself. I read piles of books defending traditional Christianity, but avoided, quite carefully, talking to anyone who could have brought those books to life. As a result, I could engage in a private refutation as I read. The academic culture was headed a particular way, in so many places, and the Christianity I needed would fit into the culture and direction. In some conservative religious organizations, the corresponding temptation might be to avoid challenging ideas that could cost a job, cosseting views badly defended, from examination. This is not the Socratic life, this is not the life dedicated to truth.
Loyalty and faith are too great to give to any human absolutely. We owe ultimate loyalty and faithfulness only to the good, truth, and beauty found in the Mind of the Almighty. The unchanging moral truths of the church, the enduring beauty of each human being and of creation, and the timeless truth of the Word are not dependent on polls or policy. They were unknown to most humans for much of history and have been rejected by many. The people who killed Socrates, crucified Jesus, burned Joan of Arc, and shot Dr. King were a majority with power.
God’s truth, goodness, and beauty endured. Any guilt these faithful and loyal people might have had was wiped out. They were saved by loyalty and faith. They understood that the fear of God, the source of all that is good, is the beginning of wisdom. We examine ourselves and see we are not what we should be and so we place our loyalty in God. As a result, we do not end up supporting any peculiar institutions, historic or modern, that cut us off from the progress of history in most cultures, in most places, at most times. We turn from evil, even evil that would get us a job, tenure, or enable us to avoid painful personal decisions if we are loyal to the truth. We are unafraid of any questions or any discussion, even one we think we might “lose.”
This might be uncontroversial with academic types, but there is a more limited loyalty jettisoned too quickly. A decent person is loyal to parents, alma mater, his friends, his country. These loyalties and faith come with checks and balances, but they exist. Who wants a friend who abandons them at the first sign of disagreement or trouble? How can one be a good citizen without some degree of loyalty? If we wish to right the wrongs of our society, then we must begin by being part of that society! A person with a modicum of loyalty to family will be cautious about what he does. He will keep the ties of home as strong as possible.*
Isn’t there a danger when our loyalties end up being to self-created “communities” of people whose ideas, behavior, and actions are like our own? We create our own world, a bubble where the primary loyalty is to what I happen to think just now. This insular life will make finding the greater good, truth, and beauty very hard. Everyone is likeminded (on the “key things”) and so we hear no criticism. We never pause in our forward progress, to be loyal, to keep faith, with family, friends, or our nation.
Dad was right. Let’s cultivate some limited loyalty and faith to groups greater and older than self (family, Church, state) while pursuing with absolute loyalty the good God.
*Of course this must be limited and is not even possible in some situations! Is this as common as we might think?