“O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee?
O Judah, what shall I do unto thee?
For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.”
Many of our so-called friendships resemble the fickleness of gasoline-buyers: For two cents less a gallon, we forsake the station of our forefathers for an upstart. We resemble the fickleness of the Jews, who forsook their God for other lovers, showing that their “goodness”–literally, their loyal-love–was as loyal as morning fog that dissipates at dawn. It is a cultural mindset, a disease that has corroded our relationships, and I am writing to urge us Christians to regain a habit of mind that is loyal almost to a fault. God is loyal to us; and we should be loyal to our friends.
The word for loyal-love in the Hebrew is hesed–that special quality that Ruth exhibited to Naomi, when the older lady urged her to return, but Ruth replied, “Where you go, I will go; and where you stay, I will stay; your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). It is that special quality that Jesus exhibited when “having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). It is that special quality that we should now exhibit to one another, as the Son of Ruth lives in us by the Spirit of Truth.
Consider your adornment. What do you wear around your neck, and write upon the tablet of your heart? According to the book of Proverbs, we should not let “mercy and truth” leave us, but place them on our body where they will not be lost, and keep them in our memory at all times–as if written there in granite. Literally, the Wisdom of God advises us to keep loyal-love and being-true-to-others with us at all times. What precious qualities! Such rare jewels, perhaps even more rare today than at other times! If we do keep them close, then as a rule we shall find “favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4). In other words, other men will think well of us and grant us favor, as will God Himself.
This fact of God’s world is especially important in hurtful situations, where we have wronged one another. Though we often say that time will heal, it will not do so without the right ointment. According to Proverbs 16:6, the ointment is again the “mercy and truth” of loyal friendship. Do not push the wronged person to accept you with open arms, as if nothing has happened. True, that person must forgive; but a wound is a wound, and healing takes time. How can we aid the healing process? Be loyal and true in all that you do over the long haul, and with the favor of God, trust will be restored, and the wrong will be largely forgotten.
Interestingly, it is just these two qualities that Christ came armed with at Christmas: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The unique glory of Jesus, showing us that He was more than mere man, was the fullness of loyal-love and truth exhibited in His life and death on our behalf. In these traits, more than in His supernatural power and miraculous wonders, the Son revealed the Father as His exact image. Christian, it is from this very fullness, the fullness of loyal-love and truth, that you and I have all received–receiving not only the grace of Jesus dying for us, but now the grace of Jesus living in us by His Spirit (cf. John 1:16). You are armed with all the loyalty of the Best Friend Himself, free from your sins and free to love fellow sinners. By His fullness then, be a loyal friend and display the glory of Christ to others, even as He displayed the glory of the Father to you. Loyalty is what the Lord requires, and loyalty is what we should love (Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8). Merry Christmas!