Proverbs 20:28-30

Loyal love and truth preserve a king,
and his throne is upheld by loyal love.
The glory of young men is their strength,
and the splendor of old men is gray hair.
Beatings and wounds cleanse away evil,
and floggings cleanse the innermost being.

I’ve been a Cincinnati Bengals fan most of my life. I grew up in Ohio, and they were the closest NFL team to us. Since my older brother was a fan, I supposed I had to be one. I actually remember liking other teams like the Redskins, but my brother told me I didn’t like the Redskins, I liked the Bengals. So, I guess I just believed he knew what team I was supposed to like.

I was a fan through the 80’s when they were good. I remember how my brother and I got to stay home from church the Sunday night that the Bengals played the 49ers in the Superbowl. And I remember crying when they lost. I was so upset, I refused to eat dinner when our parents got home.

However, I was also a fan through the 1990’s and 2000’s when things weren’t going so well. I remember a lot of 1 – 2 win seasons. I remember how the team was very much the joke of the NFL. And it was hard to be a fan. But I was. I stayed a fan. I was loyal to my team. And, in fact, I am still loyal to my team. Not as loyal as I am to the Buckeyes, but still Loyal. And maybe one of these days, they’ll make it to the Superbowl and win. Maybe.

I wonder how many of us even know what loyal love means or looks like. Far too many of us have our feet firmly planted in the changing waters of fickleness. We have grown accustomed to leaving people behind us the moment they become too risky, damaged, costly or dangerous. Something happens and we bolt. We have lost the value of loyalty.

Here we see that the longevity of a king’s reign and the authority of his throne were directly connected to the loyal love that surrounded him. Who have you surrounded yourself with? Who are the people that are the closest to you? Are they loyal to you? Are you loyal to them? Or are they just close to you because of what you offer them? Are you close to them because of the benefits they bring you?

If you are close to them because of what you can get, or they’re close to you because of what they can get…you sought to have your expectations down pretty low. As long as you’re just using each other, you will only be useful to one another as long as you have value to add. As soon as that disappears, you’ll be out a friend.

What we’ve lost is the idea of being loyal ’til death. Loyalty isn’t determined by actions and circumstances. Loyalty is determined by a decision. We decide to be loyal. We commit ourselves to be loyal because we made a choice and a commitment to do so. We choose to be loyal. And being loyal means there isn’t a choice to walk away. It’s not even an option. The only thing that can end loyalty is death.

When was the last time you were loyal like that? I bet if you started to be loyal, you’d start to notice yourself with a lot more friends.