Sadness descended on Tuesday. A good friend told me that they must put down their dog. It will be a kindness to the poor pooch, but it is still a bitter blow. This is a dog I know – I’ve taken it for walks myself. There is a short delay while the family wait for their son to return from England to Ireland. He wants to say “goodbye”. For a moment I thought this excessive (time away from work, university and many other commitments – not to mention the expense), but it did not take me long to recognise the good sense in this desire. The dog has been loyal to him, and the least he can do is be loyal to the dog in this time of need.

As a dog owner myself, it led me to reflect on loyalty lessons and how to be a loyal friend to others. Here are three loyalty-builders,

  1. Consistency. Dogs are always there. When you want them to be, and sometimes when you don’t. They are fully involved in our lives, seeing us up, down and sideways. We’ll have loyal friends when we spend lots of time together in a lot of different circumstances over a long period of time. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,” (Acts 2:46 NIV11-GK). Are we spending enough time with one another?
  2. Forgiveness. I have accidentally trodden on my dog’s tail, forgotten to give him dinner – and committed all kinds of other sins against him. Yet he still trots up, licks my face and treats me as his best friend. Friendship is not built on perfect treatment. It is built on forgiveness. Jesus called his disciples “friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15 NIV11-GK). This was despite them misunderstanding him and misrepresenting him. Are we quick to forgive?
  3. Bravery. Our dog will bark at anyone who threatens us. He bares his teeth, growls, makes himself look bigger and would have no hesitation in going onto the attack if he thought we were in danger. Loyalty is built when facing danger together, and loyalty is felt when we know someone would go into the battle for us. Paul said of Epahroditus, “he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.” (Philippians 2:30 NIV11-GK)
We all want loyal friends. The trick is to be one. We will be if we are consistent, forgiving and brave – just like Jesus.