David and Jonathan’s friendship is one of the most touching parts of the Bible. These two men were true friends and one of the attributes of that relationship was their mutual loyalty.

Jonathan was in line to be the next king since he was Saul’s son yet he knew that the Lord had chosen David to take his place on the throne. (Not because of any fault of Jonathan’s but because of his father’s sin.) Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that Jonathan had every reason to resent David, he remained loyal to David, even choosing sides against his own father to support and protect David.

David, likewise, was absolutely faithful to Jonathan. After Jonathan died, David searched for any of Jonathan’s surviving descendants. When David found Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s surviving son, he showered blessings and privilege on the young cripple Thus he continued to express his loyalty to Jonathan, even after he had died.

The faithfulness of David’s friends to their leader blesses me every time I read the account. Each one of them had put their lives on the line many times because of their loyalty to David. Yet, one of the saddest parts of David’s life is the disloyalty of his own son, Absalom, who incited and led a rebellion against his own father. Absalom had one loyalty and that was to himself. That is the difference between David, his friends and Absalom. David and his friends were loyal to one another and would rather die than be unfaithful. But Absalom was only loyal to his own agenda and ego.

Personally, I rate loyalty as second only to integrity in relationships. Without these two things no relationship can go beyond the superficial. But the problem is that many people these days require others to be loyal to them while they only reciprocate that loyalty as long as it is convenient. But David and Jonathan’s loyalty to one another went beyond convenience and they remained loyal no matter what the cost.
Of Jesus’ friends only John remained loyal even to the cross. We have all felt the sting of the traitor’s kiss. Yet, are we faithful to our friends, our church, and above all to the Lord?

The first place we need to be loyal is in our marriages. But when spouses badmouth their partners to outsiders is disloyalty. Loyalty demands that we defend our partners even though we may be very aware of their shortcomings. If spouses cannot protect one another and be absolutely loyal to one another, then how will they ever be loyal to anyone else. I often wonder how two people can live together when they are not completely protective and loyal to one another and when they frequently betray one another.

Brothers and sisters need to be loyal to the other members of the body of Christ. If we do not look out for one another, protect and remain faithful to the church, then who will look out for us? It is interesting that unbelievers are often more loyal to their club, military unit or country than Christians are to their church. That does not mean that we cannot or should not change allegiances. Sometimes we have to make a change because the Lord is leading us on. But as long as we are a member of a local body, we need to be faithful and loyal to that assembly.

Loyalty means sacrifice. It requires doing what is right for the other person or the group even though at times it may be not convenient. Soldiers die because of their loyalty to the country or the unit yet we will deny, betray and turn against one another at the drop of a hat. Jonathan and David made many personal sacrifices in order to remain faithful to their friendship. And when “every man of Israel deserted David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri... the men of Judah, from the Jordan as far as Jerusalem, remained loyal to their king” (2Samuel 20:2).

Loyalty means protecting our friends. That means not accepting or spreading a rumor about the other person. It does not mean that we should be blind to one another’s faults but it means that we will not support anyone who wants to attack or accuse our friends. We may have to approach them privately and correct, or even rebuke them if necessary, but when someone else brings an accusation we should defend those that we are loyal to. When we agree with those who seek the destruction or the ill of our friends, we have become disloyal.

Loyalty means keeping our promises. We all remember Peter’s promises in the upper room of absolute faithfulness to Jesus, yet a few hours later his commitment disappeared as the mist before the sun. David never forgot his promises to Jonathan and he kept them, even though Jonathan was dead and he could easily rationalize that it did not matter any more.

Loyalty means having to make tough choices. Jonathan had to choose between his father and David which must have been a hard thing to do. Unfortunately, one of the things that comes with being loyal is the fact that we sometimes have to choose where our loyalties lie. That may mean choosing against someone else. Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Movies have glamorized the stories about spies and secret agents, but the lowest form of life has to be the double agent who is not loyal to any cause but will betray both countries.

Loyalty means looking out for the other’s interests more than our own. One day David expressed longing for the water from the well in Bethlehem. Three of his friends risked their lives, broke through the enemy lines, and brought him some of that water. Now that’s loyalty! It was not of national interest or a major theological issue, no, they simply wanted the best for their friend and were willing to make personal sacrifices to bless their friend.

Loyalty means never forsaking and turning away from our friends. Jesus is the ultimate example of loyalty in this respect: “He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

In a world of selfishness and self-centeredness, we need to rediscover loyalty to our families, friends and church. But above all, we need to be loyal to our God and Savior: “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2Chronicles 16:9).