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Faithfulness and Loyalty in Relationships (Proverbs 3:3)
By David L. Goetsch
Have you ever been betrayed? Have you ever put your trust in someone only to have it broken? Sadly, most of us can answer yes to these questions. In a fallen world, faithfulness and loyalty in relations are rare. This is why the divorce rate is so high in America and why there are so many broken relationships. One of the most effective ways to ensure faithfulness and loyalty in a relationship is by setting an example of these things yourself. This is the message in Proverbs 3:3: “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.”
Because of the conditions in which they were raised, some people have never seen faithfulness or loyalty in a relationship. As a result, they don’t know how to be faithful or loyal. Faithfulness and loyalty elements of the Greatest Commandment. Part of loving your neighbors as yourself is being faithful and loyal to them. Some of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard came from people who were let down by unfaithful or disloyal spouses, relatives, friends, or coworkers. I have seen marriages destroyed, friendships lost, relationships severed, teams torn apart, and partnerships dissolved because of the unfaithfulness of one of the parties. I suspect you have too.
As Christians, we yearn for relationships based on the message in Proverbs 18:24: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but here is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” We want family members, friends, and coworkers who will uphold this Biblical standard and stick closer to us than a brother. Unfortunately, people don’t always live up to this standard.
In Luke 22:47-48 we read about the betrayal of Jesus. An angry mob was looking for him and Judas led them right to where he was praying on the Mount of Olives. Instead of remaining faithful and loyal to the Son of God, Judas betrayed Jesus and gave him over to the men who wanted to kill him. With this heinous act, the name of Judas became synonymous with betrayal and has remained so down through the ages. Even today, anyone who betrays the trust of another is called a “Judas.” I have counseled many people over the years who were betrayed by a modern-day Judas.
Few things in life are more devastating than being betrayed. Lives, relationships, communities, and even countries have been torn apart by the acts of unfaithful people. If you have ever suffered through the experience of being betrayed, you understand the value of faithfulness and loyalty. The two concepts are not precisely the same, but they are close enough that, for the sake of simplicity, I use the term faithfulness throughout this step to encompass both concepts.
Being faithful to your beliefs, commitments, and relationships means being steadfast in your devotion to them. Faithful people are true to their word, promises, beliefs, and commitments. As a result, they are dependable, trustworthy, and honest; they can be counted on in good times and bad. Faithful spouses, friends, relatives, or coworkers won’t abandon you at the first sign of trouble or when you need their help. Rather, they stick with you like the “friend” in Proverbs 18:24. Above all else, faithfulness is a willingness to sacrifice for the purpose of remaining true to your relationships, beliefs, promises, and commitments.
Faithfully upholding a commitment is one of the lessons Jesus taught by his death on the Cross. By going to the Cross, Jesus remained faithful in his commitment to God the Father. That commitment was to die on the cross to wash away our sins and give us eternal life. Christ’s example is the one you and I are to follow when it comes to faithfulness as well as all other aspects of our lives. Faithfulness begins with your relationship with the Lord. If you are faithful to God, you will, in turn, be faithful in all else. If you are not faithful to God, you won’t be faithful to anything or anyone else. When you betray your beliefs, commitments, family, friends, coworkers, or anyone else, you betray God.
Faithfulness and Loyalty in the Bible
The Bible is replete with verses that demonstrate God’s expectations concerning faithfulness. These verses underscore God’s desire for his children to be faithful to him and, in turn, to others. When we are faithful to God, we will also be faithful in our beliefs, commitments, promises, and endeavors. Faithfulness is so important to the Lord that it is included as an example of the fruit of the spirit in Scripture. In Galatians 5:22 we read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.” This is important because a major part of loving your neighbors as yourself is personifying the fruit of the spirit for them.
What may be the most instructive verse in the Bible on faithfulness is a verse typically quoted on the subject of salvation: John 3:16. Although this verse isn’t often used to teach the value of faithfulness, it is actually one of the best verses in Scripture for that purpose. God was so faithful in his relationship with you and me that he sent his only son to die on the Cross so we could be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life. This verse underscores more than any other verse from Scripture the potential cost of faithfulness. That cost is sacrifice and it is a cost you and I must be prepared to pay in our relationships.
Another example of faithfulness is found in 1 Samuel 24:6-10. In these verses, David confronts Saul who is hiding in a cave. Saul has tried in every way to kill David so he is certain that, given the chance, David will kill him. Yet just when David has his nemesis cornered and at his mercy, he refuses to harm Saul or allow his men to harm him. Instead, he spares Saul’s life. Rather than kill him, David bows to Saul and assures the king no harm will come to him. He tells Saul, “I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.” In refusing to kill him, something all of his men thought he had a perfect right to do, David was doing more than remaining faithful to Saul; he was remaining faithful to the Lord who had anointed Saul.
The Bible makes clear that faithfulness requires sacrifice. In no verse is this stated more poignantly than in John 15:13 where we read, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” There is no better example of loving one’s neighbors as yourself than being willing to die for them, just as Christ died for you and me. The annals of the various branches of the U.S. military are filled with the heroic stories of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who sacrificed their lives to protect the lives of their comrades. Similar stories can be found in the annals of police and fire departments nationwide. The memories of these sacrificial heroes are revered, and rightly so; they personified the example of sacrificial faithfulness set by Jesus Christ.
Benefits of Faithfulness and Loyalty
Faithfulness is like gold; being rare increases its value. Whereas lives can be shattered by betrayal, they can be uplifted, inspired, and healed by faithfulness. Faithfulness can provide hope to people who are discouraged, reassurance to people who are struggling, and new life to people whose faith is wavering. It builds trust, increases dependability, and strengthens relationships. It can actually save lives.
Anyone who ever served in the U.S. Marine Corps has seen this contention borne out many times. The Marine Corps’ motto is Semper Fidelis, which is Latin for Always Faithful. This motto is emphasized beginning in boot camp and throughout one’s service in the Corps. To demonstrate what Semper Fidelis means in practical terms, new recruits are told story after story of how Marines sacrificed in combat to remain faithful to their fellow warriors, putting their lives at risk to save those of other Marines and refusing to leave one of their own behind, alive or dead. In many of the stories, one Marine made a conscious decision to die in order to save the lives of his comrades. This commitment to Semper Fidelis is one of the reasons Marines enjoy their well-deserved reputation for valor in combat.
The lives of countless Marines have been saved over the years because their comrades faithfully refused to leave them behind. Knowing their fellow Marines will stick with them no matter the cost and that they will never be left behind instills a Gung Ho attitude that has made the Marine Corps one of the most effective fighting forces in the history of our country. Faithfulness is that powerful, and not just in a military setting. It has the same positive effect in all human relationships.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.