Do you have any friends? Look around you, think about it. Is there anyone in your life to which you are committed? Someone that is always there to help you? Someone that loves you in spite of your faults and weaknesses? Someone that stands by you when everyone else has failed? Or, is your life filled with a multitude of shallow relationships? Are you surrounded by many acquaintances and yet still living a lonely life? If so, maybe your friendships lack an important ingredient – Loyalty. We as Christians can enjoy the rewarding experience of being loyal to a godly friend. To do this we must know: what loyalty is, why we should be loyal, how we can acquire loyalty, and how to express our loyalty.
First, what is loyalty? Loyalty is faithfulness, devotion, or allegiance to a person to which one is bound by a personal commitment. First Samuel 18:1 gives us a perfect example of two people bound together by a personal commitment. The verse reads, “Now it came about … that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David.” Bible scholar Matthew Henry comments on this verse saying that it seemed as two bodies in one soul. Loyalty brings people together in such a way so that, in a sense, two become one. I am sure that there have been times when we’ve seen two people so close in a friendship relationship that the two people seemed as one. Many times we might even mix their names up, confusing one with the other. Godly loyalty in a friendship always involves three personalities, one person with another and God in-between. “The Lord is between you and me forever” is what Jonathan told David in 1 Samuel 20:23.
Moving on, we are presented with the question: why should we be loyal? The first verse, Prov. 27:17 states, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” A loyal friendship provides spiritual growth and edification, a building up of one person to another. “One man sharpens another.” Romans 14:19 says, “So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” First Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another.” People build each other up. A loyal relationship is a catalyst, propelling the spiritual growth of the people involved, as they build each other up and “sharpen one another.”
Asking why we should be loyal brings us to Eccl. 4:9-12, which states, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A chord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” The first part gives us the first principal. A loyal friendship provides spiritual strength. The verse reads, “If one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A chord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” This verse is speaking in physical terms, but I would like to apply this to the spiritual realm. Two people loyal to each other, and who help each other out, are able to withstand a spiritual battle much better than one person alone. Jesus sent out His disciples in pairs. They could encourage one another and help each other in times of trials and persecutions as they went from town to town preaching the gospel.
This leads to the next point. Loyal friends can bear one another’s burdens. “If either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.” Galatians 6:2 says that we should “bear one another’s burdens.” A perfect example of this is found in the friendship between David and Jonathan. David was on the run from Saul who wanted to kill David. In 1 Sam. 23:16, we see Jonathan encouraging David. Jonathan rose up to encourage David in God – we see two people and God involved in the relationship.
Next, a loyal friendship provides companionship. “If two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? Naomi was a widow left alone to return to her homeland. She had two daughters-in-law whom she told to return to their real mother’s house. Ruth, her loyal daughter-in-law “clung to her”, as it says in Ruth 1:14. Ruth was loyal to Naomi, and so Naomi returned to Bethlehem with Ruth, her loyal daughter-in-law. Companionship was provided.
The next point is closely related to the sharpening of one person to another. Prov. 27.6 says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” From this verse, we can see that loyalty allows for openness in which constructive criticism is most effective. A friend can use constructive criticism to help his friend out without the fear of being rejected or hurt. Constructive criticism is rare to find among friends. Only close friends can feel open enough to confront each other with faults and weaknesses. I think that it would be improper for me to confront a person I barely know; but, with a close friend, even though it might be rough, I can come to him with problems or weaknesses in his life that could be worked on. This constructive criticism can be used as a great tool to build character into each other’s lives. The flaws that I have in my life that might be “blind” to me can be pointed out to me by a loyal friend. With constructive criticism, I can change and grow out of something I might not have recognized on my own. That’s why Proverbs 27:9 says “…a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.” Loyal friends can gently instruct one another in areas of weakness that cannot be discussed in a shallow, superficial relationship. Many of you know me, but not all of you can come up to me, or I to you, with any of the deep personal things in our lives. Why? The relationship is not there or is not developed. But with a loyal friend, I can go to that person with the deep, personal things that need to be talked about that could not be talked about in a shallow relationship.
Next, Prov. 18:24 states, “A man of many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This gives us an example of the two types of friendships that we can have. We can have many shallow friendships or we can have one loyal friendship. Many friends lead to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother no matter what the circumstances. This kind of friendship provides aid and assistance in times of trouble. This kind of friend sticks. Once again Jonathan and David give us a perfect illustration. In 1 Sam. 18:11, 29, we read that, “Saul hurled the spear … to pin David to the wall,” and that “Saul was David’s enemy continually.” Saul the king wanted to kill David because he was jealous of David and was afraid of David. Jonathan, David’s friend and Saul’s son, came to the aid of David in chapter 19:4-6. “Then Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, ‘Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since his deeds have been very beneficial to you. For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, by putting David to death without a cause?’ And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, ‘As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.’” Here, we see Jonathan coming to the defense of David. Jonathan gave David aid and assistance in times of trouble.
The apostle Paul also had this kind of a friendship with some other disciples. In Acts 9:25, we see the disciples giving aid and assistance to Paul by lowering him in a basket through an opening in the wall so that Paul could make his escape. If it were not for these loyal disciples, Paul would never have made it alone. They gave him aid and assistance in times of trouble.
Another reason that we should be loyal is because loyalty gives us the opportunity to express our love toward another person to a greater degree. A great expression of love through loyalty can be seen in Romans 16:3, 4 where it says, “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks.” This couple loved Paul so much and were so loyal to him that they even risked their own necks! John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.” This is a sacrificial love; this is loyalty. Is there anyone in your life that you can honestly say that you would die for? Is there anyone that would die for you?
Finally, a loyal friendship provides an atmosphere that is open to deeper level communication. First Thessalonians 2:8 gives us a great example of this. “Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.” Notice how Paul not only gave the Thessalonians the gospel, but he imparted his own life to these people. He shared himself. He had a deep level of communication with the Thessalonians.
Some people say that there are five levels of communication. The fifth level of communication is the cliché level. This is safe communication. There is no personal sharing and each person remains safely behind his or her defenses.
“Hi, how are you?” “Fine, how are you? “Fine.”
“How’s the family?” “Fine.”
“How’s the weather where you’re at?” “It’s hot, cold, rainy, etc.”
“That’s a nice watch that you have.” “Thanks.”
The fourth level of communication is reporting the facts about others. Examples are things like:
“Did you see John hit that home-run in the ninth inning?” “No, I was at work.”
“Have you seen Jorge’s new Mustang?” “Cool!”
“Guess what?” “What?” Joe and Sue broke up?” “Bummers!”
“I heard that Jennifer got an “A” on the Chemistry exam, and Sam flunked it.” “It figures.”
“Bill got a raise.” “Wow!”
Level three gets down into the area of ideas and judgments. This is where real communication begins to unfold. The person is willing to step out of his solitary confinement and risk telling some of his ideas and decisions. If he senses that what he is saying is not being accepted, he will retreat. Examples of this type of communication go like this:
“I think that if Jesus were alive today His biggest opponents would be the mainline church denominational leaders.” “Yeah, I think you’re right.”
“If I was the boss here, I sure wouldn’t let Frank get away with being late for work all the time.” “Me neither.”
“I’ve decided to quit listening to rock music, so that I can be a good example for my younger brother to follow.” “That’s a wise decision.”
Level two is the level of feelings or emotions. At this level a person shares how he feels about facts, ideas, and judgments. His feelings underneath these ideas are revealed. This level will sound like this:
“I heartily agree with Joe that evangelizing the spiritually lost and building up believers spiritually is one of the main ways of putting God first in your life.”
“I was so happy for Marty winning that trophy tonight.”
“I was really upset when the communists murdered millions of innocent people in Afghanistan.”
“I felt really proud of Ana because she read through her whole Bible this year.”
“I enjoyed that melodic music CD immensely, and I feel so much more relaxed now.”
Level one is complete emotional and personal communication. All deep relationships must be based on absolute openness and honesty. This may be difficult to achieve because it involves risk – the risk of being rejected. But it is vital if relations are to grow. This is what Paul means by saying that he shared his own life. This is deep level communication. This can be seen in statements like:
“I feel like a failure because I can’t seem to conquer this problem with alcohol, pornography, worry, etc.”
“I feel so lonely when I’m apart from you.”
“I get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from seeing you happy.”
“I get so angry with myself when I’m impatient with others.”
“I really love you for who you are and not for what you have.”
This is deep level communication, and this comes from people who are loyal and committed to one another.
Having examined some reasons why we should be loyal, the next question is, how can we acquire loyalty?
Loyalty is an act of the will, based on one’s special love for another person. First of all, I am not talking about the average friendship that most people experience. I am not talking about the love that we as Christians are commanded to have for one another. The kind of relationship that I am talking about is a special relationship. It is a deep relationship that is selective and cannot be experienced with every friend that you have. Obviously, there are levels of commitment in relationships. There are acquaintances, and friends, and good friends, and then there are loyal friends – the deep close relationship in which one soul is knit with another. Raymond C. Ortland speaks about this kind of relationship when he writes in his book, Lord, Make My Life A Miracle:
Let me share my heart with you about friendships that last forever. Not friendliness: everyone should be friendly to everyone else. But I’m talking about establishing selective, godly friendships.
I like the way that last sentence put it. “I am talking about establishing selective, godly friendships.” For this reason I say that this kind of loyalty is based on a special love. This is a loyalty that is selective and cannot nor should not be maintained with a large group of people at the same time. This kind of friendship is time-consuming and is something to be worked on, but is very rewarding at the same time. This is the kind of friendship that Jesus had with John, who is referred to as, “the one whom Jesus loved.” Jesus didn’t have this kind of relationship with all of His disciples – only John. Even Peter asked John if he knew who would betray Jesus.
This friendship is special and deep. The best way to explain what I mean when I say “special” can be stated in the word “attraction”. People are attracted to a certain type of person and not to another. Attraction is not used in the sexual sense but in a magnetic sense. I mean, in your life, there are people that you are more attracted to than others. Among Christian brothers and sisters there is one person that you would rather hang around with than with another. Not to say that you dislike the other people. It is just that for some reason God has given people chemistry in personalities, so that you as an individual are more attracted to some people than to others. This can be people of the same sex or of the opposite. Once again, this is not a sexual attraction. This is a personality/soul attraction.
Jesus had this kind of special attraction for John that He did not have with the other disciples. As Christians, we are commanded to love one another (this means everybody), but there are some people with whom God has given us a special liking – for lack of a better term. This is why David could write after the death of Jonathan, his beloved friend, “I am distressed, for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women.” Jonathan’s love relationship with David was not like the relationship that a man has with a woman. It was a deep soul-to-soul relationship that truly loyal friends have with one another, be it of the same sex or with the opposite.
The contrast between the two kinds of love in the verse is: the love that a man has with a woman, and the love that one has with a loyal friend. The love of a woman refers to a romantic love that men and women have based on physical attraction and may or may not include any kind of loyal commitment. The love that David had with Jonathan was a loyalty-based, commitment love that is always there when two souls are knit together as one, be it man with a man, man with a woman, or woman with a woman.
The ideal relationship is when God brings together two people that both have this special love with each other, this soulish attraction. When two people like this meet, the result is a life-long, loyal friendship that endures. It is possible to have a friendship where only one person is attracted to the other in the way that I have been talking. This leads to a one way friendship where one is giving the loyalty while the other receives. There are many people involved with this kind of a friendship, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. My prayer is that in our lives God would grant us godly, loyal friendships where the “special” love is found in both members of the friendship. I pray that God would grant us all life-lasting, loyal friendships.
Now, let us suppose that God has given you a friend that is very special and attracted to you in the way that I’ve just spoken about, a deep soul-to-soul attraction. Let us also say that you, too, have this attraction to that other person. Loyal friendship now has its beginnings. The next question is, “How can we express our loyalty?” I have a small list of ways that we can express our loyalty. This is not an exhaustive list, but I will share a few things that I think are important.
The first point is very important, and I think it is the foundation for a loyal commitment with another person. This first point is found in Proverbs 17:17, which says, “A friend loves at all times.” Love is the base on which our loyalty is built. We should love the other person unconditionally. No strings attached. Proverbs 10:12 says, “Love covers all transgressions.” No matter what the other person has done, no matter what the sin, love covers/forgives it. With all the other person’s quirks and shortcomings – a loyal friend still loves at all times. Here’s a good definition of love, “Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous, love does not brag, and it is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, it is not provoked, does not rejoice in unrighteousness; but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails” – 1 Cor. 13:4-8. One aspect of love that is interesting is that love is not jealous.
Let us look at an example of this kind of love. It is a loyal love that seeks the other’s interest before self. In 1 Sam. 18:3, 4, we have David and Jonathan once again as our example. Jonathan is heir to the throne by birth – yet David is heir to the throne by appointment of God. Earlier, Jonathan had a great military conquest, as he and his armor bearer killed many Philistines, while David had his “ten-thousands.” The stage was set for a rivalry between David and Jonathan. A true fight for the throne was about to take place. The plot calls for jealousy. Yet, we see the reverse taking place. These two become the best of friends. Jealousy had no place in this love relationship. Not only that, but we see the two sacrificing for each other and giving to each other.
We read in 1 Sam. 18:3, 4, “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.” All of the things that Jonathan gave David were symbolic of his right to the throne. Jonathan gave David his robe, his royal robe. With this act, Jonathan passed his legal right as heir to the throne and recognized David as true heir chosen by God. This is sacrificial, giving, and a beautiful display of loyalty. There was no room for jealousy in this relationship. Love does not seek its own. Jonathan took of himself and gave to David. This is loyalty. This is not like saying, “Well I’ve got some food, let’s split it. I’ll take half and you take half.” Oh no! This love says, “I’ve got some food, here take and satisfy your hunger.” Unconditional love!
Is there someone in your life that you have this kind of love for? A close friend? Someone that you love just as much as yourself? Is there someone about whom you could say, “I care and love this person in spite of all of his faults. I want this other person built up, even if it means me going down.” Is there someone in your life that is so close to you that you can honestly say, “Everything I have is yours”? If so, express your love to that person. Next time you think about doing something for yourself, think about doing that thing for your friend. Let’s say one day you planned to go off and read a book, but your friend comes to you expressing the need to be with you. A loyal friend would realize that the time spent for self – reading a book – is sacrificed for the time spent with the friend.
Maybe there is some talent that you have that your friend does not have. Offer your talents to your friend. For example, maybe you are mechanically inclined and your friend isn’t. How about offering your services to fix that friend’s car? Maybe you can type well and your friend can’t, and has this ten page paper to type. How about typing it for him? What about the time that your friend has to cook or clean this week for some reason, but he’s preoccupied with a multitude of things to do. You, also, have a bunch of things to do. How about dropping your things and doing some of the things that your friend can’t do? This is an expression of your loyalty.
Another expression of sacrificial love is in the area of treasure. You see that your friend needs a bookcase and you have two. How about giving him a bookcase, or maybe even both? You have a car and your friend doesn’t; he needs a ride to a place fifty miles away because of some emergency. How about taking him? You notice that your friend is running financially low and can’t buy any new clothes, and the holes in his jeans are getting bigger. You too are poor also and are on a tight budget. Do you buy your friend some new clothes, trusting that God will provide for you just as you have provided for your friend’s need?
So loving your friend as yourself in the specific areas of time, talent, and treasure is an excellent way to express your loyalty. Loving in all areas is a great way to express your loyalty to another person.
Another way to express loyalty to another person is by making a verbal commitment to one another. This can be seen in many verses in the Bible. In 1 Samuel 20, we see seven different references to a verbal commitment made by Jonathan and David.
We read about how David vowed in verse 3, and the covenant that they had in verse 8; we see how Jonathan made a covenant in verse 16, and how Jonathan made David vow in verse 17. In verse 23 we read how the Lord was in-between the agreement that they made. And in verse 2, we see Jonathan say that they have sworn to each other. Over and over, a verbal commitment was made. It’s interesting to see why they made such commitments. Verse 17 says, “Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him (David) as he loved his own life.” Remember, Jonathan was rightful heir to the throne, but he knew that David would be king. The commitment is that after David becomes king, Jonathan asks David to show him the lovingkindness of the Lord and not kill him. Jonathan also asks David to show lovingkindness on his house/family.
You see, once David became king the strategic move on his part would be for him to kill off all of the former king’s relatives, so that none of them would rebel and try to regain the throne. Jonathan said “Look David, I know that you will be king. God has so ordained it. At that time, if I’m still alive, don’t kill me or my children. We acknowledge you and God. You don’t have to kill us.” David makes that commitment to Jonathan as an expression of his love for Jonathan. Interestingly, we have already seen Jonathan make a commitment of love when he symbolically gave David his right to the throne by giving David the royal garments – 1 Sam. 18:2-4.
Loyalty was expressed in a verbal commitment, but it moved on to action. King David, after the unfortunate death of Jonathan, asked the question, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Remembering that the promise David made applied to the descendants of Jonathan, David looked to fulfill it, with action. In 1 Sam. 20:42, we see the stipulations of their commitment, “Inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants.” David and Jonathan made a verbal commitment that was fulfilled in action. Have you ever expressed your loyalty to someone else in a verbal commitment? Have you ever said, “Friend, I really think that our friendship is important. Don’t ever hesitate to call on me. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you out, and, if I’m able, I will”? Whether that be moral support, financial or emotional support, a verbal commitment can bring a focus to a friendship and can also be a place of grounding or rooting. When hard times come, a friend can say, “Remember when I told you that I would help you when you were down? Well, I can see that you are down, and I’m here like I said.” A verbal commitment is another way of expressing our loyalty.
A third way of expressing loyalty is by keeping confidences. Keep your mouth shut. Prov. 17:9 says, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” If you don’t want to separate an intimate friendship, don’t repeat a matter. Confidentiality is an expression of loyalty. A good, loyal friend will not blab to anyone the things that were told to him in confidence. For example, you’re speaking with your loyal friend, and you tell him about a certain problem you’re having with lust. You want your friend to help you in this area, as well as pray. You specifically tell your friend not to tell anybody. Then a person that you don’t really know comes up to you and says, “You know, I heard about the problem you’re having with lust. I want you to know, I’m praying for you.” What does this communicate to you about the loyalty of your friend? It is very important in building loyal relationships that things revealed in confidence, remain in confidence. Keeping confidences is a way of expressing our loyalty to another person.
Another way of expressing our loyalty is by seeking to please the other person and do what is best. A great example of this is found in Ruth. She was loyal to Naomi, and, in Ruth 3:5, she expressed that loyalty to Naomi when she said, “All that you say I will do.” She expressed her loyalty in seeking to please the other person. Likewise, Jonathan’s armor bearer said to Jonathan, “Do all that is in your heart, turn yourself, and here I am with you according to your desire.” Here, Jonathan tells his armor bearer to accompany him on a plan of action that will pit the two of them against a large amount of enemies. The armor bearer doesn’t say, “Well Jonathan, that’s a neat plan you’ve got, but I’ve got other plans.” Instead, he said, “Here I am with you according to your desire.” Interestingly, we see Jonathan saying almost the same thing to David in 1 Sam. 20:4, “Whatever you, say, I will do for you.” This was an expression of his loyalty to David.
Romans 15:2 says, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.” Think of ways to please the other person. For example, you are buying a gallon of ice cream for a meeting. Your friend has expressed to you that he could really go for some chocolate ice cream. You, on the other hand, don’t like chocolate; you like vanilla. Do you please yourself and get vanilla, or do you please your friend?
Or, you and your friend have decided to spend a Saturday afternoon together. You decide that a good game of racquetball would be fun. Your friend really wants to play tennis, but you really wanted to play racquetball. What do you do? How about saying, “Whatever you desire, I will do.”
Or, there’s a birthday party next week. You were all set to blow up balloons and decorate the place for the party. However, in the process, your spiritual trainer volunteers you to sweep the floors and mop before the meeting. Do you grumble and complain? Or, do you think, “I am loyal to my spiritual leader and his decision”? And so say, “I am with you according to your own desire.”
This kind of loyalty seeks to please the other person, even when the pleasing isn’t something fun or something that you want to do. Sure it’s easy to do something for someone else when it is something that you like to do, but what do you do when it is something that you don’t like to do? Do you still seek to please?
Seeking to please the other person often means that you must give up the right to please yourself. You like chocolate ice cream and your friend doesn’t. To please him you buy vanilla, but, in doing so, you have sacrificed the right to please yourself; it is an act of selflessness in choosing the welfare and pleasure of others instead. We please the other person.
Another way of expressing our loyalty is by sticking close to the other person in the midst of opposition. Second Samuel 15:19-22 gives us a perfect example of this. The context tells us that David is now fleeing Jerusalem because Absalom, his son, has taken over the kingdom and the majority of people were on Absalom’s side. The text says, “Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, (notice this guy wasn’t even an Israelite, and yet he was loyal to king David) ‘Why will you also go with us? Return, and remain with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile, return to your own place. You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander with us, while I go where I will? Return and take back your brother; mercy and truth be with you.’”
But Ittai answered the king and said (this is really great), “‘As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be.” So here we have David running, and Absalom is in control. Absalom is king, and David is going into exile. Most of the people have gone Absalom’s way. “Out with the old and in with the new” was the peoples’ mentality. Now David tells Ittai, “Hey, why are you going with us? You go ahead and stay with the new king; you’re a foreigner, he won’t do anything to you. Besides, you don’t want to go out into the woods with us. It’s rough out there.” Ittai gives a great response. Ittai says, “As long as the Lord lives (i.e., forever), and as long as the king lives, I will be with him.” Ittai remained loyal.
Tell me, do you hang around somebody because he is popular? Do you associate with only the “in” crowd? Do you let popularity rule who you choose as your friends, or do you stick by your friends in the midst of opposition? Is your friend your friend all the time, no matter what the circumstance or popular consensus? Loyalty is sticking close by a friend through thick and thin. Picture in your mind your best friend. Imagine that everybody does not like that person. They think that he is weird and stupid. Would you still be that person’s friend, even if everybody else hated him? Loyalty demands that we stick close by our friends in the midst of opposition.
The next point is closely related to the last point. Not only should we express our loyalty by sticking close to the other person, but we should express our loyalty by defending the other person. A great example of this type of loyalty is seen in life of Jonathan (1 Sam. 19:4-6). We read about how Jonathan defends David in front of Saul. Remember, Saul wanted to kill David. Jonathan defends David, and verses 4-6 say, “then Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father.”
Let’s go back to the analogy of the close friend. We saw how everybody was insulting your best friend and asked if you would stick close by him. The next question is, “Would you defend him?” The people are in front of you saying, “Your friend is a bum. He’s no good.” However, you know that what they are saying is a lie. Do you stand up to the crowd and say, “No, I know who you are talking about. He is my friend, and he is not like that at all.” Or, do you let your friend get slandered, vilified, and maligned as you sit there and listen in cowardly silence?
Many times, defending a friend can cost you something. Will you pay the price to stay loyal to your friend? For example, what happens if your friend is not a part of the “in” crowd at school. You know that you won’t be accepted by one group of people if you hang around your friend. Prejudice can be revealed and loyalty tested in these types of situations. Your best friend is Asian (or any other ethnic background) and another group of people are prejudiced against your friend. Are you willing to be loyal and lose the so-called “friendship” of these bigoted people? You will be ostracized because of your loyalty to your friend; but in spite of this, are you willing to defend your friend? This kind of relationship costs. However, one costly, loyal relationship that may cause persecution from others is much better than many safe, shallow relationships that when put through the test of meaningfulness amount to almost nothing.
In Matt. 15:2-9, we see Jesus defending His disciples. The Pharisees had asked, “‘Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’” Did Jesus remain silent while His friends were being accused? Did He say, “Well, I guess you’re right”? Did Jesus say, “I really don’t like My disciples anyway”? Did He say, “Oh, I’m sorry, My disciples didn’t act according to your tradition, we’ll fix that right away; please forgive them”? Did Jesus compromise His loyalty in order to gain the favor of the Pharisees? No, Jesus defended His friends.
Are you willing to defend your friends? Do you have any real friends to defend? Or, are all your relationships shallow? Are your relationships even worth defending? Many times, we might have somebody we call a friend, but then we find ourselves in a situation where our friend is being slandered or gossiped about. “Oh, that guy is a religious fanatic. He is crazy. He is a geek.” We might not even say anything; we won’t speak up. We’ll just sit there and let the other person gossip and slander away. We really don’t care about our friend. We care more about what this guy is going to think about us if he finds out that we are friends with the guy that he is talking about. We are afraid of not being liked, so we avoid defending our friend. We shut up. What does this kind of action express about our loyalty to that person we call our friend? Do you defend your friends?
Now, while you are thinking about those questions, I will touch on the final point in how we can express our loyalty to another. We can do it by seeking out the companionship of the other person. Looking to be with that person and spending time together. The desire to be together is in itself a result of loyalty between two people. This can be seen in Paul and Onesiphorus in 2 Tim. 1:16-18 which reads, “The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains (notice the unconditional love), but when he was in Rome he eagerly searched for me, and found me – the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day – and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.” So, here, we have Paul in jail and Onesiphorus looking around Rome for Paul. This is an example of taking the initiative in seeking companionship. Do you ever actively seek to spend time with your friends? Do you take the initiative?
Another example is found in 2 Kings 2:2. In it, we see Elijah going off to Bethel to minister, and he says to Elisha, “‘Stay here please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel. But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives and as you yourself live I will not leave you (sound familiar?).’ So they went to Bethel.” In verse 4, Elijah says, “‘Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’” Guess what Elisha said? “‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’” After they do their work in Jericho, Elijah says to Elisha, “‘Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ And he said, ‘As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them went on.”
Think of all the time they spent in Bethel, Jericho, and the Jordan. Elisha must have learned many great things from Elijah. And Elisha proved his loyalty to Elijah over and over. Is there someone to whom you are loyal? Someone you won’t leave? Have you told this to anyone? I think time is one of the most important factors in building a relationship. Take the initiative to spend time with your friend. If there is no time spent together, there is no growth of the friendship; seek companionship.
Seeing now why we should be loyal, how we can acquire loyalty, and how we can express our loyalty, let us conclude by applying all of these principles into two very important areas in our lives.
The first area in which loyalty should be applied is in discipleship. First, I want to say a brief word to those Christians who aren’t being trained, at this time. I would strongly admonish you in Christ to become a disciple/trainee. Discipleship is God’s best plan for our growth as a Christian. If you are wondering why you struggle in the Christian life, if you find yourself struggling with growth, the answer is simple, Christ-styled discipleship. Discipleship is a relationship with a mature Christian in which he builds you up spiritually, and you learn and grow and build him up. Discipleship is God’s school for excellent Christian growth. God wants you to be discipled/trained, and until you do, life for you will be a long, sad struggle between this world and God’s Kingdom. A loyal friend who is mature and is himself a disciple is your escape from a dead life and is your entrance into a rewarding, obedient, spiritual life given to you by the One who gave His life for YOU!
Now to the Christian being trained. I would like you to think about this question. Which relationship in your life is top priority on your list? With whom are you doing the things that I’ve spoken? I think that top on your priority list should be your spiritual teacher-trainer/trainee(s). In what relationship are you trying to bring someone closer to the Lord? The relationship with your trainee(s), of course! Seeing that the most important relationships we have (besides with the Lord), is with our spiritual teacher-trainer and our trainees; it is only logical that we seek to apply loyalty and all that it entails to these relationships. My spiritual teacher-trainer should know me better than anybody else; therefore, he can help me grow better than others could. In the same way, I should know my trainee(s) better than anybody else does, so that I can help him/them grow. Loyalty in discipleship is an important factor to helping our growth as a Christian.
The last application is profound. I don’t know if you know this, but there is a person in this room that has expressed all of these points of loyalty toward each of us. He loves us unconditionally, “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He has made a verbal commitment (among many) to us, “and the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.”
You never have to worry about this friend gossiping or slandering us. He can hold a confidence so totally that you can, “Be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). He sought your best interest and did not please Himself, “for even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell upon Me’” (Rom. 15:3). He will stick close to you in the midst of opposition, “for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5, 6). If the entire world is against you, remember, He will never desert you nor forsake you. This friend defends you, and when Satan accuses you, “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Finally, this friend will never leave you; He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
You all know who I am talking about, the Son of God and our Lord, Jesus Christ. I think that it is interesting to note that if you go back over this entire article on why to be loyal, how we can acquire loyalty, and how we can express our loyalty, you will see that the Lord Jesus Christ fulfills all of these areas. Tell me, how is your loyalty toward God? Put yourself to the test and go back and apply all of these areas to your relationship with God. How do you measure up? Are you loyal to God? After all that He has done for you and to you, are you loyal to God?
May God give you the opportunity to apply these things to a friend in this life, and I hope that you will take the initiative and apply all of these things with God.