Loyalty and trust are absent from many personal relationships today. What about your own?
Long-standing friendship between two men was shattered when one betrayed a secret the other confided in him. Information that was considered strictly personal was divulged to other people. The betrayed man was stunned and heartbroken — he was shocked. A friend he thought he could trust turned out instead to be a devious traitor! How highly do you value a confidence? How deep does your loyalty run? Can you be trusted — relied upon to keep private information to yourself? Do you conscientiously guard the personal secrets others confide in you? When friends and associates bare their innermost feelings and seek your advice, do you resolve to keep it quiet? Let's reverse the situation. How many of your friends can you trust with your deepest secrets? Can you be honest and open with them about your personal hang-ups, problems and frustrations, and know they will not betray you? Or do you fear they would react with shock and abhorrence and pass the information on to others? Even among our closest associates, it seems hard sometimes to find a friend we can really trust. We hear gossip and rumors almost every day. Loyalties are betrayed with reckless abandon.
This condition prophesied
This deplorable condition in our society has come to be an accepted way of life. We seem to have lost the integrity that true friendship demands. How odious this must be to almighty God, whose character reflects the highest level of trust! The Bible forewarned that this condition would prevail at the close of this age. Jesus stated, "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another" (Matthew 24:10). The apostle Paul more specifically emphasized that traitors and un trustworthy people would abound: "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors" (II Timothy 3:1-4). Have you and I become guilty of these sordid evils by violating the sacred trusts that others place in us?
Why trust is rare
Why are trusting friendships so scarce in the world today? A principal reason may be the "loose-tongue syndrome," or the callous disregard for the reputation of others. It seems that we give little thought to the damage we inflict on people when we gossip and besmirch their good names. For example, have you noticed how often a conversation that begins on an uplifting note soon deteriorates into destructive slander? Blunt opinions are carelessly expressed, sharp remarks and suspicions are freely voiced. This is highly displeasing to God and openly defies His Word. James wrote: "Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge" (James 4:11). Of seven specific things God says He hates, three have to do with gossip and slander: "These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue. hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies. and one who sows discord among brethren" (Proverbs 6:16-19). Another reason we are prone to break confidences is that we probably were not taught at an early age the importance of protecting our friendships. We were probably exposed to the occasional hypocrisy and cynicism of our parents, who prattled about the mistakes and foibles of their friends, neighbors and even relatives. Thus, we unconsciously absorbed the gossip habit into our thinking processes. How very important it is that we teach our children to be faithful to the trusts placed in their care — to view them as a cherished obligation. A word of caution: Please realize that we're referring to the moral obligation our children have of protecting the privacy of others, and not to serious or immoral acts that need to be reported. One of the most destructive sins is exposing past mistakes people have since repented of, or revealing weaknesses they are striving to overcome. Probably nothing is more humiliating to a person who is genuinely repentant than to have his past life brought up and discussed by others who will not leave his sins buried under the blood of Jesus Christ.
God's admonition to forgive
This is why Paul admonished the Corinthians to forgive and comfort the man who was put out of the Church for an immoral act but was reinstated after repenting (II Corinthians 2:7-8). Unforgiving individuals are ruthless and cruel, and will surely be judged by Jesus Christ for their merciless treatment. Mark 11:26 says, "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." Moreover, Jesus warned: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you" (Matthew 7:1-2). God's Word is explicit concerning what our attitude should be toward others who are struggling with sin. True love covers sin (Proverbs 17:9). That is, it thinks the best about others and gives them the benefit of the doubt. Instead of babbling their sinful deeds to the world, true friends will do all within their power to rescue a stumbling neighbor from his plight. "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). For sure, true friends will not add to the shame and disgrace of neighbors by spreading vicious rumors. Are you given to gossip? Do you revel in advertising sin that others commit? Do you betray the trust of someone who, ensnared by an evil habit, cries out to you for help? If you do, then God, in His Word, brands you a traitor who may be in greater peril than the one you are accusing: "The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly" (Proverbs 18:8, Authorized Version). And, "A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends" (Proverbs 16:28).
A different kind of talebearing
Related to the sin of tale bearing is a practice equally as harmful: telling people the juicy tidbits of gossip we hear others say about them. Obviously, such indiscriminate mouthings do not serve the cause of peace nor build bridges of goodwill. Instead, they sow the seeds of discord and create division. God commands us to speak evil of no one (Titus 3:2). In principle, this means it's just as destructive to pass on gossip to the person affected as to a second party. Try to make the theme of your life one of true and dependable friendship, and you will rise in favor with God and man.
Importance of trustworthiness
An excellent example of just how highly valued trustworthiness is can be seen through the screening procedures of the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation. When a person is being considered as a prospective agent, everything about his life is examined — his background, hometown, habits, known friends and acquaintances, after-work activities and more. Every detail is taken into account. And, though a candidate may be found to have good character and reputation, if he cannot maintain a trust — if he habitually divulges confidential information — that person will never be appointed an agent. On a grander scale, God is also looking for men and women who allow His Spirit to develop in them even higher standards and attitudes. Respect and fidelity are among the highest qualities of character God treasures. Notice the description of the kind of person who will stand before God and be blessed: "Lord, who may abide in your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; he who swears to his own hurt and does not change; he who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved" (Psalm 15:1-5). Are you striving to become this kind of person? We all need to deeply examine our attitudes. Are we guilty of the very things we distrust in others? Is it possible that the suspicions we often insinuate stem in part from our own guilt feelings, or our own tendencies to participate in rumor spreading? Let's search our own hearts. Do we put others down simply to minimize our own shortcomings and lift ourselves above them? Of course, we should not ignore or condone wrongdoing. That is, we should not try to protect people who are guilty of i1legal acts. Even more important, we should not conceal the actions of a brother who is sowing discord among God's people and trying to divide the flock. In the case of a friend who is weak and sinning, the Bible instructs us to go to him privately, in a spirit of meekness, and try to help him (Matthew 18:15-17). We should not want to make him a public spectacle of ridicule so as to destroy his dignity.
Be a faithful friend
True, faithful friends are priceless. The Bible commends the brother who "loves at all times" and the "friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 17:17, 18:24). The Bible points to the friendship between David and Jonathan as a sterling example of unfailing loyalty, of what true friends should be like. II Samuel 1:26 states that the love that they had for each other was stronger than a man's love for a woman. The friendship was so unshakable that they would have given their lives for each other. Can you imagine either of them turning "Judas" on the other — betraying a secret or a confidence or spreading vicious gossip? What can be said of us in the way we treat our friends; Can we also be trusted to carefully guard a confidence, to faithfully uphold someone's honor? The greatest example of true friendship and devotion in the entire universe is God Himself. The Bible tells us that all our faults and secret sins are open to His view (Hebrews 4:13). He knows us through and through. Yet God, who is love, plainly reveals that He does not talk about our sins when we repent (Ezekiel 18:22). He forgets them in His mercy (Hebrews 8:12) and casts them far from His presence: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). In stark contrast, Satan, our great adversary, constantly gossips and accuses us before God day and night (Revelation 12:10). He is a renowned liar and depraved slanderer (John 8:44) whose primary aim is to destroy our character. It behooves each of us to make sure we are emulating God and letting God create His faithful character in us (Ephesians 4:23-32). If we are not on guard, we'll find ourselves often serving Satan and doing immeasurable harm to other people. As we serve God and draw close to Him, let us strive to honor our neighbors and develop friendships based on loyalty and trust!