Chaplain's thought for the week
Revd Tom considers the value of faithfulness
I have been speaking about faithfulness in both our Junior and Senior School Chapel services this week. It has to be said that faithfulness doesn’t sound like the most exciting virtue in the world: it usually goes on quietly and unnoticed by most people. However, it should be prized highly.
We have two pets: a dog and a cat. Erasmus, our cat, is a lovely and very friendly tabby. There are two highlights of his day: being fed in the morning… and being fed in the evening. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s at these moments when he’s most friendly! Sometimes Erasmus is keen to cuddle up on a lap – but only when it suits him – and you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s more interested in you as a source of food than for your personality. If Erasmus doesn’t want to do something, I really don’t have much influence to change his mind.
Sidney, our dog, on the other hand, is all love and faithfulness. He’s an over-enthusiastic Cocker Spaniel who will take all the love you can give him – any day of the week. No matter what mood you’re in, Sidney will love you. From the day he entered our house, we became Sidney’s ‘pack’ and he’ll love us and be faithful to us, no matter what.
The Anglican spiritual writer Evelyn Underhill once said that faithfulness is a ‘doggy quality’. Perhaps a surprising thing to say about one of the Fruits of the Spirit. ‘But then,’ she writes, ‘doggy love is a very good sort of love: humble, selfless and enduring.’
This week I’ve asked our pupils to consider how faithful they are. Do they have that ‘doggy quality’ of faithfulness? Do they show love to their friends for what they can get out of them, or simply because they are faithful friends? I’ve asked them to consider how faithful they are to their friends in situations when this faithfulness might be tested: when they’ve said they’ll do something, but a better offer comes up; when a friend is in trouble; when people talk about their friend behind their back; when they see a friend taking the wrong path; when their friend is going through a hard time.
Being a faithful friend isn’t always easy, and it often goes unnoticed in the world, but it is this quality which most of us seek from our friends. Evelyn Underhill wrote this: ‘Faithfulness is the quality of the friend, refusing no test and no trouble, loyal, preservering; not at the mercy of emotional ups and downs or getting tired when things are tiresome.’
Indeed, the quality of faithfulness in friendship should spring out of a deeper attitude of faithfulness in our lives. Faithfulness means that we are the kind of people who keep our word, who do the right thing even if no-one is watching, and who don’t crumble when a better offer comes along. For Christians, God is an image of faithfulness: God who is unchanging and continues to love us no matter what we do or however unfaithful we may be. The Bible calls God ‘Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows’ (James 1.17). That’s the kind of faithfulness I hope will characterise my life.