I recently read a true story about a man and his dog named Hachikō. As the story goes, in the early 1900’s, a Japanese man build such an extraordinary relationship with this amazing dog, so much so that each day Hachiko would warmly greet the man as he left to teach at the University. In the evening at 4 o’clock, Hachiko would travel down to the train station to patiently awaiting the return of his master and best friend. Everyday Hachiko would stand on the train platform scanning the busy crowd, awaiting a reunion with his beloved companion. This amazing act of faithfulness is only half the story. One day Hachiko arrived at the station to greet his friend, but he never exited the train. Hachiko’s master had died of a stroke at work. Amazingly, the dog arrived at 4Pm the next day, and patiently waited. This pattern continued daily, prompting commuters and train operators to provide food and water for this faithful pet. For nine years, the faithful Hachiko arrived at 4pm, scanning the crowd for his old friend. Through hunger, distress, rain or snow, he would arrive on time and in place, expecting to see his friend again. As the dog aged, his steps grew short and his eyes grew dim, but none of his physical infirmities deterred him from his appointed task. After Hachiko’s death, a bronze statue was erected in Shibuya, Tokyo, to commemorate the life of this amazingly loyal friend. If an animal created by God to live by survival instincts can display such loyalty, can we too learn the exceptional virtue of faithfulness?
Now, I have to admit that the story is a little soupy, and I am not the most adamant dog lover in the world. But there is something that we all can learn from our canine friend’s faithfulness. People exemplifying faithfulness toward one another are rare occasions in today’s world. Loyalty to a cause, group or individual seems almost to be non-existent in our post-modern world. The “I got mine, you get yours” mindset seems to permeate everything from work, to play, to family, and even religion. Unfaithfulness is so common, that when we see faithful people, we think they are abnormal. Our society glamorizes the ambitious businessman or politician that throws everyone under the bus to achieve more fame, fortune and notoriety. Just about every television shows sensationalize the intrigue of the illicit affair and many people wear unfaithfulness as a badge of honor.
Society has misconstrued what it means to be faithful. Millions believe that loyalty is given only when loyalty is shown. It sounds good on the surface, but it’s a flawed concept. For example, all of us have lied to someone who we love dearly. Albeit accidental or purposeful, and in doing so we caused damage to the relationship or at least hurt feelings. Should we then receive hurt and mistrust in response to our faithlessness? This eye for an eye mentality leaves everyone blind and hurting. Instead, we should assume that a faithlessness act is often committed by a person with good will, but a sometimes flawed human heart. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs writes about this in his great relationship book entitled “Love and Respect.” Faithfulness is a proactive virtue, not a reactive response. Whether being loyal to your spouse, your friends, or your business partners, you and I must be the first to display faithfulness, and the first to defend the character of those that we love and trust. As an associate minister at my small Church, I will at times have members complain to me about the Pastor, or some decision the Board has made. I am quick to let them know that as a leader I am loyal to my leaders first and foremost. Any disagreement I have with my Pastor, I will bring up with him directly, and even if the outcome is not in my favor, when we part, we part loyal to the decision together. One way to remain faithful is to avoid gossip and hearsay. I suggest you use what I call the “front street” approach. The next time someone comes to you with gossip about a friend, stop them in their tracks and tell them that you are loyal to them and the absent friend, and it would not be fair to discuss the issue void of their presence. In the vernacular… put them on front street! I promise that you will gain their loyalty and the loyalty of the absent friend. In my marriage, we may disagree vehemently on an issue, but once the decision is made we remain faithful to that decision and each other regardless who “got their way.” Faithfulness requires grace, and grace given is usually grace received. Do not buy into the notion that faith is only earned, truth be told, faith is first given.
Many will read this and misconstrue my urging of faithfulness as “blind faith”, but I am not promoting that you and I remain faithful in the case of abuse, mistreatment, or continual misdeeds. Nor should we build a wall of selfishness so high that no one could possibly climb high enough to earn our loyalty. But we can buy into the fact that most people are of “good will”, and given that fact, they deserve our faithfulness, and loyalty, and you deserve theirs. In a dog eat dog world, we can take notes from Hachiko, and show up faithful in the lives of our friends, our spouses, and our business partners. And when our days are over, I pray that we will hear the words…
Well done thy good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, now I will make you ruler over many.