If asked, would you say you are a good friend? I have always thought of myself as a good friend. I am a good listener, I will rush to help a friend if asked, and I will share my resources if the need arises. But is that all it takes to be a good friend? This past Sunday I heard a sermon on friendship. As I listened I began taking a closer look at my role as friend in light of the strong, godly friendship of Jonathan and David. As a result, if you asked me today if I am a good friend my honest answer would be, “depends on the day”.
What does it mean to be a friend? Friend is defined as “one attached to another by affection or esteem” (Merriam-Webster). I have affection for my friends. I care about them and how their lives are working. I want good things for them. I enjoy spending time with them and living life together. In many cases my friends and I share common interests and hobbies. How is it, then, that I can find myself being hurtful and unfriendly towards them?
In Romans 7:15 Paul states, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Sometimes, as a friend, I feel like this. Paul goes on to say that it is because of sin living in him that he acts in ways he does not want to act. Yes humans have a sinful, fallen nature, but as a Child of God I am not enslaved to sin any longer. I do have the ability to be a better friend than I find myself being at times. But what should that look like?
Let’s look at the characteristics of the friendship of Jonathan and David. 1 Samuel 18 introduces us to the remarkable relationship of these two men. What an unlikely friendship. Jonathan was the song of the King of Israel and heir apparent. He was an experienced soldier. David, on the other hand, was a shepherd boy. Yet these two quickly formed a strong bond.
As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. (1Samuel 18:1)
The souls of Jonathan and David were knit together. I looked up some synonyms for knit: interlock, unite, tighten. David and Jonathan were connected in strong unity and Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. Because of this love Jonathan made a covenant with David.
Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. (1 Samuel 18:3-5)
A covenant is an agreement or legal contract. As part of this covenant Jonathan, the son of the King, stripped himself of his future “kingship”: his robe, his armor, his bow, his sword, and his belt, and he fully supported David’s succession to the throne. This is a beautiful example of a friend thinking better of the other than them self.
As David’s success increased, Jonathan took great delight in his friend’s growth. King Saul, however, became increasingly angry and jealous. Saul’s plan was to find David and kill him. Just as true friends watch over and care for one another in times of trouble or temptation, Jonathan sought to protect David from the wrath of his father.
And Jonathan told David, “Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself. And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you. And if I learn anything I will tell you.” (1 Samuel 19:2-3)
In addition to protecting David, Jonathan tried to intervene with his father on David’s behalf.
And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?” (1 Samuel 19:4-5)
Despite Jonathan’s efforts, David’s life was still in jeopardy and Jonathan did the only thing he could for his friend. He sent him away.
Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city. (1 Samuel 20:42)
Although it was quite painful to see David go, Jonathan put David’s safety above his own selfish desires.
What can we learn about the friendship of Jonathan and David?
1. Both shared a deep commitment to God
Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16)
2. They loved each other unconditionally.
3. They put each other above friends and family
Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness. (1 Samuel 20:30)
As I evaluate this list I must confess that I often stumble on the second point: loving my friends unconditionally. There are times when my needs and selfish desires conflict with unconditionally loving my friends. Yet Paul reminds us,
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3)
If I am going to grow to be a better friend, a godly friend, I want to know what God says about being a good friend.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Jesus wants us as friends. When we come into a saving relationship he calls us friends.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
While we have no better friend than Jesus, the one who laid down His life for us, loves us unconditionally, is always with us , and will never hurt us, we can, as humans, do the same for our friends. With Jesus as my example I can grow to become a really good friend myself.