Proverbial Faith: Wise as serpents … innocent as doves

I have an email devotional I’m doing with the same title as this post.  A recent post read:

Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and of people.

(Proverbs 3:3-4)
(Yes, we’ve skipped ahead a great deal.)

I’ll admit that I don’t have a lot of patience or tolerance with unfaithfulness, especially unfaithfulness in marriages.  In the honesty department, I think it is because I know how completely out of control it can get for me if I even take one small step in that direction.  The image I maintain for myself is “AVALANCHE!”.

I completely understand the emotions, the allure, the thrill that comes from those initial steps onto the steep snowy mountainside.  Maybe some can even survive the uncontrollable ride in the avalanche.  I won’t take that risk.  For me, it has to be a conscious decision.  So, the binding and writing in this proverb are good adjectives for me.  This is simply a huge value that is non-negotiable in my life.  It is so key for me, that I can hardly stand books or movies where unfaithfulness is part of the story, especially if unfaithfulness is depicted in the slightest positive light.

The first broader question that needs to be asked about loyalty and faithfulness is whether or not it is an appropriate cultural value in our day and age.  In the culture, it is certainly “on the ropes”, within marriage and beyond.  Are those of us with this value an outdated minority, tenaciously hanging on to ancient values that have out-served their original purpose?  I’ve got to wonder as I look around.  But, what can we expect when half of marriages end in divorce and a large percentage of high school students are not living with both natural parents (at the same time).  We’ve taught our children that loyalty and faithfulness are values that are not very high on the list.

I answer that loyalty and faithfulness are indeed an important value for me, and I evaluate others based on the importance they have placed on them.  Where loyalty and faithfulness are not treasured values, chaos often ensues.  Even blind loyalty has its place … not in all things, but many.  But that is my answer.  What about yours?

Another question that I invite you to consider is, “Where else in our lives is loyalty and faithfulness non-negotiable?”  Family? Job? Commitment to justice? Honesty? What would your list look like?  Is it long?  Are the items on that list truly non-negotiable?  What can you do to strengthen the commitment to this value?

Play with the proverb and your answers …

At least two people provided me with some reflections.  I’m offering them here as a way to give them voice outside the actual (brief) weekly devotional.

This is one response:

I find the recent Proverb 3:3-4 very thought provoking.  Some may pick and choose to apply some part of this ‘wisdom’ to their life, yet  loyalty and faithfulness are very important character traits that most people use as a barometer in their relationships.

Generations and culture do not view ‘traditional’ in the same way.  Needless to say, I am more of a traditionalist but have learned that it is important to try and understand our culture of the late 20th and current 21st centuries. There seems to be an abundance of reasonable reasons for our society in this day and age to ignore the traditional principles that have served us so well.  Family situations and relationships are a constant challenge to the traditional way of life. I do not have to change my thinking but I can listen and try to instill my values in a non-threatening way.  Society can’t seem to take the time for God and hear His Word.

The last sentence of the Proverb……”so you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and of people” has the essence of ego building to me  and is centered around motives for doing only what one will do.  I am not interested in how many check marks I will have on judgment day as I try to be faithful and loyal as a part of my normal activity.

Yes – I want to please God and help others but my loyalty and faithfulness comes from my heart and a clear conscience.    I, personally, seek no recognition or reward when I am given the opportunity to share myself with someone or something.  It is important that I be loyal and faithful to myself and my values.  The Golden Rule is a strong reminder of what God shows us every day and it is important that we look upon our fellow man in the same way.

I have experienced a variety of religious beliefs in my lifetime.  Church of the New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian), Southern Christian Church, confirmed & married Methodist, taught SCS in a Presbyterian Church, I married a Lutheran and all of our children were baptized Lutheran and I later became a Lutheran through Affirmation of Faith.  As a child of the depression era we lived with my grandparents until I was 12 years old.  Each imparted a central value that was very important to me.  One that has remained with me is that I was not alone in this world and it was important to put others before myself which is more or less the Golden Rule.

Although I have not specifically answered the questions you put to us I feel that if I continue to be loyal and faithful in all that I do than choice does not become an issue.   Maybe this is a copout or unrealistic yet we have the advantage of prayer in reconciling the differences that may exist not only with others but within ourselves.

This proverb gave me the opportunity to assess loyalty and faithfulness as I take my relationships and activities as a part of my normal existence.  This has been a good exercise for me.

This is another response

The other question in faithfulness in marriage, is in your other vows. Yes, fidelity is one of them. But so is being present – to have and to hold. Neglect is a form of infidelity. In joy and in sorrow – abandoning a spouse and turning to alcohol instead to deal with pain or difficulties in life. In plenty and in want – running up hundred dollar bar tabs so that rent and child care can’t be paid. In sickness and in health – not dealing with illness, even mental illness, but only wanting perfection, physically, mentally, and emotionally, or abandoning a spouse because they have a problem. Or not recognizing your own problems. To love and to cherish – abusing a spouse, emotionally, verbally, and finally physically. In my mind that is the ultimate infidelity. When my ex-husband did get around to cheating on me, it no longer mattered. He had shattered our marriage in breaking my faith – my trust long before then. Yes, my child is living with only one of his natural parents. And i doubt I will ever tell him what occurred between his father and I.

Instead I will teach him that loyalty and faithfulness are like trust – something to be earned. Once it has been earned, it takes a great deal to break it, especially in honest, open relationships. And by that I mean a relationship of any form – parent and child, siblings, employer and employee, business partners, friendships.
My parents taught me many values, and many of them are intertwined. Honesty, integrity, and the value of your honor. Hard work (which is in all things, personal relationships, making a home, and doing your job) and commitment. And faith and trust. Most importantly? When in doubt, “do the right thing.” The right thing is what your heart tells you – and often comes from the grace of God and the Holy Spirit working with in you. And often, doing the right thing keeps you away from the edge of the avalanche.

I’m delighted that people are engaged in reflection!
Pondering Pastor
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