Saturday, March 11, 2017

Wanted: Loyal Friends.

A couple of weeks back after having dinner with my family at home, we had gist time as we do regularly to check up on each other. This time we wanted to know each person's 5 closest friends. While the exercise is always easier for the kids, it isn’t for me and my wife.  So, we each took turns in listing our 5 closest friends, with a bit of explanations here and there. Of course, by virtue of my position in the family (lol), I went last. My list included my wife (who is my closest friend by far), then 3 other friends and I got stuck. I was thinking hard on who the 5th person would be.  I saw my last son (Feyisayo) looking at me intently and “expectantly”. Before this time, we have always called each other “best buddies” around the house. He would say stuffs like “ Dad, you are my best buddy”, “Best buddies don’t do that”, “Best buddies always share. You are not sharing daddy”. So, I received wisdom and said “And no 5 on my list is FEYISAYO!”. What happened next was almost unbelievable! He was shouting and screaming and then gave me several hugs. Even his siblings were so happy for him that he made my list. It was an electric feeling. Honestly, I was glad I named him that night. He would have been very disappointed if I didn’t and it would have taken me a long while to make amends. Interestingly, I didn’t make his own list (lol), but I am an adult and I understand. He would probably not have understood. What he expected from me at that time was loyalty. “Best buddies are loyal to each other, and they stand up for each other” he must have thought.  The truth is this – it is difficult to find loyalty in our world today. We have fair weather friendships, marriages, work relationships and partnerships. What a shame.

Some years back, I read the story of two young men, Jim and Philip. They were the best of friends. They did everything together. They went to high school and college together. They played sports together. Even after college, they both joined the marines. They were inseparable. And one day, they were out on the battlefield in Germany, in the midst of a very fierce battle. Gunfire was everywhere. Bombs were exploding. It got so bad that they were given the orders to retreat. As the men were running back, Jim noticed that his friend Philip wasn’t with him. His heart was gripped with fear, he panicked. He rushed over to the commanding officer and requested permission to go back to the battle zone. The officer said “Are you crazy? You don’t have a chance. I will be committing suicide going back in there”. Without missing a bit, Jim turned around and ran back, defying the orders. In a few minutes, the officer saw Jim hobbling back across the field, carrying the lifeless body of his friend Philip. He screamed at him “I told you not to go. You could have been killed. I knew your friend was already dead”. Jim said “No sir, you were wrong. He was still alive when I got there, and his last words were ‘I knew you would come back’. Anytime I read or hear this story, I am always close to tears. Even as I write this, I marvel at the level of loyalty exhibited by a friend. Awesome! 
“No sir, you were wrong. He was still alive when I got there, and his last words were ‘I knew you would come back’

We live in a world where selfishness seems to be the rule of the day, and personal gain the objective of most relationships and endeavors. One of the most honorable character traits a person can develop is the ability to be loyal, whether to family, friends, an employer, or clubs and organizations to which they may belong. There are too many fair weather friends these days! There are too many people who will only stick with you when things are perfect, when the going is good and when all seems to be going well with you. The next minute that things change, they take off. They bad mouth you. They join others to run you down. I can’t think of a better place that this plays out than in sports world – one moment you are the hero. A couple of weeks later, you have a couple of bad games and everybody is booing you and trying to run you out of town! We need friends who are committed to us for the long haul. We need people who will be by our side, committed to us through thick and thin. A true friend defends, a true friend restores and a true friend is committed.

Perhaps the most familiar story in the Bible about loyalty is found in the book of Ruth. Really, the whole book is the story of Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi. She, her husband and two sons had traveled to the land of Moab to escape a famine in Israel. Naomi alone survived and with her were the two Moabite widows of her sons. When she decided to return to Israel, the women embarked with her on the journey. She, however, urged them to return to their birth families. One did. The other, Ruth, swore to go where she went, to die and be buried where Naomi was buried, and to adopt Naomi's God. As a result of this commitment to be loyal to Naomi, Ruth found a new and affluent husband and became the grandmother of King David and a direct ancestress of Jesus Christ. Her loyalty booked her a place in history books! Chances are that you don’t even remember the name of the other woman, do you?

Another story of loyalty in the Bible that really moves me is the story of David and Jonathan. Jonathan knew that God had chosen David to be the next King of Israel after Saul (Jonathan’s father). To his father’s surprise and dismay, Jonathan was still very loyal to his friend David. Infact, he schemed severally to save his friend David from being murdered by his father Saul. Now, that’s interesting. Jonathan knew that only David stood between him and the throne of Israel. He also knew that God had chosen David. He decided to be loyal to him, even till his death! What an absolute show of loyalty. He was with David all the way – during the good times and the bad times, during the time of war and the time of peace. I like the way his loyalty was summarized. 

Jonathan, Saul's son, visited David at Horesh and encouraged him in God. He said, "Don't despair. My father, Saul, can't lay a hand on you. You will be Israel's king and I'll be right at your side to help. And my father knows it." Then the two of them made a covenant before God. David stayed at Horesh and Jonathan went home.
                                                                                                                                1 Samuel 23: 16-18). 

A friend strengthens. A true friend lifts up. A true friend stays with you, in your low moments.

In the New Testament we have the moving account of Peter's failure to be loyal to Jesus in his final hours. At the supper in the upper room Peter had vowed to lay down his life for Jesus. Jesus, however, knew better; and later that night outside the temple court Peter denied not once but three times that he even knew Jesus. When he realized what he had done, he wept bitterly. The story has a happy ending, however. For, although Peter failed in his loyalty to Jesus, Jesus continued to be loyal to him and after his resurrection entrusted his mission to him once again. There are several people today who will behave like Peter. They are with you only when everything is going on smoothly. They deny you vehemently when you are in the midst of troubles. Unfortunately, that is the time that you really need them the most. 

Everyone needs a true friend, especially when you are down. It’s easy to cheer people when they are on the mountain top. It’s easy to cheer people up when things are going their way. But a loyal person, a true friend, is going to be there cheering you on, even when nobody is around. That’s the type of friend we all need! That’s the type of friend we should all be!

Will you be loyal to your friend? Your spouse? Your partner?

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