What Does It Mean to Be Loyal?

THE Jewish Hasidim from the second century B.C.E. viewed themselves as truly loyal. Their name comes from cha·sidhʹ, the basic Hebrew term for “loyal.” It is derived from the noun cheʹsedh, which is frequently translated “loving-kindness,” “loyal love,” “kindness,” “goodness,” “mercy.” According to the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, cheʹsedh “is active, social, and enduring [and] designates not just a human attitude, but also the act that emerges from this attitude. It is an act that preserves or promotes life. It is intervention on behalf of someone suffering misfortune or distress. It is demonstration of friendship.”

Obviously, in many languages no one word can express the full meaning associated with this Hebrew term as used in the Bible. In any case, loyalty in the Biblical sense means more than faithful adherence to commitments. It includes the idea of loving attachment along with the taking of positive action so as to benefit others. To understand what true loyalty means, consider how Jehovah demonstrated it toward Abraham, Moses, David, the nation of Israel, and mankind in general.

Jehovah Demonstrated Loyalty

Jehovah told his friend Abraham: “I am a shield for you.” (Genesis 15:1; Isaiah 41:8) These were not mere words. Jehovah protected and delivered Abraham and his household from Pharaoh and from Abimelech. He helped Abraham rescue Lot from a four-king confederacy. Jehovah restored the procreative powers of 100-year-old Abraham and 90-year-old Sarah so that through them might come the promised Seed. Jehovah regularly communicated with Abraham through visions, dreams, and angelic messengers. In fact, Jehovah demonstrated loyalty to Abraham while he was alive and also long after his death. Over the centuries, Jehovah kept his promises to Abraham’s descendants, the nation of Israel, despite their waywardness. Jehovah’s relationship with Abraham was a demonstration of what true loyalty is​—love translated into action.​—Genesis, chapters 12 to 25.

It was said that “Jehovah spoke to Moses face to face, just as a man would speak to his fellow.” (Exodus 33:11) Yes, Moses had a relationship with Jehovah that was more intimate than that of any other prophet prior to Jesus Christ. How did Jehovah demonstrate loyalty toward Moses?

As a 40-year-old man with power and ability, Moses presumptuously took it upon himself to liberate his people. But it was not yet time. He had to flee for his life.  For 40 years he herded sheep in Midian. (Acts 7:23-30) Still, Jehovah did not abandon him. When the time was right, Moses was brought back to lead Israel out of Egypt.

Similarly, Jehovah demonstrated loyalty to David, the famous second king of Israel. While David was only a youth, Jehovah told the prophet Samuel: “Get up, anoint him, for this is he!” From then on, Jehovah loyally protected and guided David while he matured as the future king of all Israel. Jehovah delivered him “from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear” and from the hand of the Philistine giant Goliath. He gave David victory after victory over Israel’s enemies, and Jehovah delivered David from the spear of jealous, hateful Saul.​—1 Samuel 16:12; 17:37; 18:11; 19:10.

Of course, David was not a perfect man. In fact, he sinned gravely. However, rather than abandoning him, Jehovah extended loyal love toward a deeply repentant David. Throughout David’s life, Jehovah repeatedly acted to preserve and promote life. He intervened in behalf of the one suffering distress. Loving-kindness, indeed!​—2 Samuel 11:1–12:25; 24:1-17.

The nation of Israel as a whole entered into a special dedicated relationship with Jehovah when they agreed to the terms of the Mosaic Law covenant at Mount Sinai. (Exodus 19:3-8) Hence, Israel is depicted as being in a marriage relationship with Jehovah. To Israel it was said: “Jehovah called you as if you were a wife.” And Jehovah said to her: “With loving-kindness to time indefinite I will have mercy upon you.” (Isaiah 54:6, 8) How did Jehovah demonstrate loyalty in this special relationship?

Jehovah took the initiative to provide for the needs of the Israelites and to strengthen their ties with him. He delivered them from Egypt, organized them into a nation, and brought them into “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) He provided regular spiritual instruction through the priests, Levites, and a steady stream of prophets and messengers. (2 Chronicles 17:7-9; Nehemiah 8:7-9; Jeremiah 7:25) When the nation turned to serving other gods, Jehovah corrected them. When they repented, he forgave them. Admittedly, the nation of Israel was a difficult “wife.” Yet, Jehovah was not quick to cast her off. Because of his promises to Abraham, He loyally stuck with the Israelites until His purposes in connection with them were fulfilled. (Deuteronomy 7:7-9) What a sterling example for married folk today!

Jehovah also demonstrates loyalty toward mankind in general in that he provides the basic necessities of life for all men, righteous and unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45; Acts 17:25) More than that, he has provided the ransom sacrifice of his Son so that all mankind might have the opportunity to be released from bondage to sin and death and to enjoy the glorious prospects of perfect,  everlasting life in Paradise. (Matthew 20:28; John 3:16) The ransom provision was the ultimate act to preserve and promote life. It was indeed “intervention on behalf of someone suffering misfortune or distress.”

Prove Your Loyalty With Positive Actions

Being synonymous with loving-kindness, loyalty also carries a strong sense of mutuality. If loving-kindness is demonstrated toward you, then the same can be expected in return. Loyalty is repaid in kind. That David understood the implications associated with cheʹsedh is evident in his words: “I shall bow down toward your holy temple, and I shall laud your name.” Why? “Because of your loving-kindness and because of your trueness.” (Psalm 138:2) As a recipient of Jehovah’s loving-kindness, David was obviously moved to worship and praise him. Hence, as we contemplate Jehovah’s demonstration of loving-kindness toward us, are we moved to reciprocate? For instance, if Jehovah’s name is reproached, does your concern for his reputation motivate you to speak up in his defense?

That was what happened to one relatively new Christian and his wife when they attended the funeral of a relative who had been killed in a motorcycle accident. It was a nonreligious service, and those in attendance were allowed to say something about the deceased. One speaker proceeded to blame God for this young man’s untimely death by saying, ‘God wanted him in heaven, so he took him.’ Our Christian brother found it impossible to remain silent. He stepped up to the podium, even though he had neither Bible nor notes. “Do you think a merciful, compassionate, almighty God approves of situations like this?” he asked. He then proceeded with a ten-minute impromptu discourse with Scripture quotations explaining why we die, what God has done to rescue mankind from death, and the marvelous prospect of a resurrection to everlasting life on a paradise earth. The more than 100 people in attendance broke out in extended applause. The brother later recalled: “I felt an inner joy that I had never felt before. I thanked Jehovah for educating me in his wisdom and for giving me the opportunity to defend his holy name.”

Loyalty to Jehovah includes loyalty to his Word, the Bible. Why? Because through the pages of the Bible, Jehovah teaches us how to live. The laws and principles recorded therein are indeed the finest and most beneficial precepts for life. (Isaiah 48:17) Do not let pressure from others or your own weaknesses cause you to deviate from adherence to Jehovah’s laws. Remain loyal to God’s Word.

Loyalty to God also includes loyalty to his organization. Necessarily, over the years there have been corrections and adjustments to our understanding of certain scriptures. The fact is that no one is as spiritually well fed as we are. (Matthew 24:45-47) Unquestionably, Jehovah has stuck with his modern-day organization. Can we not do likewise? A. H. Macmillan did. Shortly before his death, he said: “I have seen Jehovah’s organization grow from a small beginning, when I dedicated myself to God at the age of twenty-three in September 1900, to a worldwide society of happy people who are zealously proclaiming his truths. . . . I am convinced more than ever before, as I see the end of my service to God on earth approach, that Jehovah has directed his people and given them just what they needed at the proper time.” Brother Macmillan served faithfully and loyally for nearly 66 years, until his death on August 26, 1966. He was a fine example of loyalty to God’s visible organization.

 In addition to being loyal to the organization, will we be loyal to one another? When faced with the threat of brutal persecution, will we remain loyal to our brothers and sisters? During World War II, our brothers in the Netherlands set a fine example of loyalty. An elder from the Groningen Congregation, Klaas de Vries, was subjected to cruel, merciless interrogation by the Nazi Gestapo, placed in solitary confinement for 12 days with only bread and water, and then questioned again. With a revolver pointed at him and under threat of death, he was given two minutes to divulge the whereabouts of responsible brothers, as well as other vital information. The only thing Klaas would say was: “You will hear nothing more from me. . . . I will not become a traitor.” Three times he was threatened with the revolver. Finally the Gestapo gave up, and Klaas was sent to another prison. Never did he betray his brothers.

Will our loyalty extend to our closest relative​—our marriage mate? Even as Jehovah honored his covenant relationship with the nation of Israel, are we loyal to our wedding vows? More than being unswerving in allegiance, actively pursue a close relationship with your mate. Take the initiative to make your marriage secure. Spend time together, communicate freely and openly with each other, support and encourage each other, listen to each other, laugh together, cry together, play together, work together to achieve mutual goals, please each other, be friends. Be especially careful to avoid developing romantic feelings toward others. While it is right and proper to develop acquaintances and even close friendships with others outside of your marriage, romantic feelings should be limited to your mate. Do not let anyone else come between you and your mate.​—Proverbs 5:15-20.

Remain loyal to believing friends and family. As the years pass, do not forget them. Keep in touch, write, call, visit. Wherever life’s path may lead you, try not to disappoint them. Make them happy to say that they know you or are related to you. Loyalty to them will keep you strong for what is right and will be a source of encouragement for you.​—Esther 4:6-16.

Yes, true loyalty includes positive actions to preserve precious relationships. Do what you can to repay Jehovah’s loving-kindness. Imitate Jehovah’s loyalty in your dealings with the Christian congregation, your marriage mate, family, and friends. Loyally proclaim Jehovah’s virtues to your neighbors. The psalmist had it right when he said: “Jehovah’s expressions of loving-kindness I will sing about even to time indefinite. For generation after generation I shall make your faithfulness known with my mouth.” (Psalm 89:1) Are we not drawn to such a God? Indeed, “his loving-kindness is to time indefinite.”​—Psalm 100:5.

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A. H. Macmillan