Some words in the Hebrew language are downright difficult to translate. A rich case in point is that of the word chesed (transliteration), which refers to a particular characteristic in relationships, specifically attributed to God. Over the centuries of translations there are several words that have tried to “capture” the fullness of the word’s meaning: Faithfulness, lovingkindness, fidelity, unwavering loyalty, leal love, etc. Foundationally, the idiom was used to express God’s determined faithfulness to God’s part of the relational bargain with Israel—or an individual.

God’s desire with human relationships was that individuals and a people would take God seriously—as God took them. When God offered a relationship to anyone, it was offered as a sacred commitment to remain loyal to an unbreakable covenant of care. God didn’t break covenants; only human beings broke covenants.

Made in the image of God, we carry the characteristics and design of the Maker in ourselves. A capacity to create, to imagine, to love, and to become faithful in relationships was part of the grand design of human creation. Provided for us as gifts of character, these characteristics were intended to enrich and strengthen the power of relationships. The unyielding devotion of chesed was to provide security, dependability, and constancy in relationships—in an otherwise unpredictable and unreliable world of connections.

Human beings are one of the few creations capable of offering such fidelity in relationships. From friendships, marriages, parenting, to communal loyalties, we’ve each been given the challenge to “make” indissoluble relational covenants with each other—and with God. Is it possible to “rise” to that challenge? I hope so—there’s a lasting gift in the process.