The images we have in our minds when we think about things or answer questions make some difference.
Maybe we ask ourselves “What does it mean to be faithful?” or “Am I being faithful here?”
And when we answer this question, maybe we think of ourselves as house-sitters (like, for instance, Mark 13:34-37) – so we think of faithfulness as following the instructions that the owner left on the kitchen counter along with the key and the garage door code, for while they’re away.
Or maybe we think of ourselves as baby-sitters (like, for instance, John 21:15-17) – so we think we need to be a little more flexible, pay attention to what the children say, and we get to watch TV after the kids are in bed, until the parents get home.
Or maybe we think of ourselves as working on a project or a mission, along with whoever’s in charge of this operation (like, for instance, Matthew 28:18-20) – and we think we are supposed to be responsive to constant communication (post-its, email, shouts down the hall, maybe even being there in the conference room, or on the set, or out in the field …)
So more generally, it may matter whether we picture ourselves keeping faith with someone who’s absent, or someone who’s present.