Faithfulness is a dog. The animal’s innate devotion to humans has earned it the sobriquet of being our best friend. Faithfulness is also this week’s topic in a series based on a more than two thousand year old list of attributes one can only describe as being transcendent. Who knew dogs could be ecclesiastical as well as housebroken?
The list in question was compiled by the Apostle Paul in an attempt to identify what should be innate to anyone who self-identifies as a follower of a former carpenter. Paul used fruit as his metaphor in place of my canine allusion, perhaps since it would be all the more readily applicable to the concept of a nourishing harvest to enrich the lives of others.
What the apostle sought in the performance of those he counseled was a bounty consisting of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We can easily call these things virtues, but in this series I’ve repurposed them to be outcomes, the changes in thought and behavior resulting from experiences others have invested in us by the example of their own lives.
We can be more humane in our exposition about faithfulness than looking solely at our canine devotees. By this I mean that we can find human examples of faithfulness, or at least attempts at this virtue, within our own two-legged species. People we might call team players are faithful, whether to their fellow team members or the cause for which the team has been assembled. Think marriage.
This two-person team pledges faithfulness to one another no matter the circumstances; wealth or poverty, health or sickness, joy or sorrow, happiness or despair. We old dogs even pledged our sexual fidelity to our partner by making the commitment to forsake all others, a declaration often missing from today’s wedding vows – a hedge indicating faithfulness may have its limits.
We are a situational people. Ethics, morals (if you allow for them), and commitments hinge on specific situations. We boast of these things when they are convenient, but eschew them when not. Often this means when are in the presence of those whose politics are more confrontational than our own.
Faithfulness, though, is not conditional or situational. Dogs do not care about our politics. One cannot imagine Lassie refusing to rescue someone because they are an anti-vaxxer. Dogs and other household pets benefit from the protection from rabies and distemper vaccinations bring and would likely follow the recommendations of the CDC, even though they cannot comprehend the efficacy of the science behind the painful jab that delivers the promise of good health.
Faithfulness prompts truth conveyed with compassion. And it still invokes friendship when the recipient of an inconvenient truth lashes out at the message bearer. The faithful bring comfort. We know this to be true. How else could a person with the temperament of a Lucy Van Pelt convey the insight that happiness is a warm puppy? Perhaps it would be best for us if our society did go to the dogs. We just might find happiness (and faithfulness) there.