The older I get, the more I understand the necessity and blessing of one specific group of people in my life without whom I could not live in sanity: my friends. I truly believe that friends, not just acquaintances but the deep and time-defying friendships, are one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Who do we facetime when we can’t choose the right outfit for a special party or date and we need advice? Who do we text or snapchat when we are bored out of our minds? Who is there when we lose a family member and need a shoulder to cry on? What about when our parents just don’t get it, and we need someone who understands the 21st century to relate to? The answer is our friends.
Friends have some of the most influential voices in our lives. Because of this, they can not only be one of our biggest strengths but our greatest weaknesses if not chosen wisely. Even though it took place thousands of years ago and was a friendship between two teenage guys, the relationship between David (the soon to be king) and Jonathan (the current prince) in 1 Samuel 18 shows us what characteristics we should look for in a true friendship. We should seek out these traits in our closest friends if we want the wisdom of Proverbs 13:20 to be true in our lives, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
The beginning of verse 18 says that the soul of Jonathan was “knit” to the soul of David. What does that mean? At this time Jonathan’s father and the first King of Israel, Saul, was enthralled with David because he defeated Goliath and saved the Israelite army from defeat by the Philistines. Saul loved David and expressed that love by making him a member of the royal household…for now. Jonathan and David had much in common already because they were both well-respected warriors who had faith in the Lord. Sometimes we choose our friends solely on common interests or being in the same class or on the same team, but our closest friendships should go deeper than that.
The Hebrew word for “knit” means “to tie, bind, or league together”. Their souls, the part of each person that thinks, wills, feels, and desires, were tied together by their faith in the Lord. The deepest friendships I have ever had are always with those whom I have that spiritual connection because it goes deeper than the things of this world. We can discuss heavenly things like Colossians 3:1-3 tells us. When Christ is our common bond, our souls will be knit together, and we will be able to relate on the deepest level of all: our spiritual life. That effects and controls every other area of our lives. Because David and Jonathan had a spiritual connection in their friendship, they also had a relationship where true love abides.
The end of verses 1 and 3 both mention that Jonathan loved David “as his own soul”. He didn’t just love him “as a friend” like we usually say when referring to friendships, but he loved him as much as he loved himself. I don’t think we realize how much we truly love ourselves more than others. Think about how many times a day you think about doing something based on what is best for you first rather than someone else first. I am convicted because I do that all the time!
The kind of love required for true friendships is abiding love that only Christ gives us, which is why the spiritual connection must be present. It is sacrificial just as God’s love for us is. John 3:16 explains this kind of love, “For God so loved the world, that he GAVE his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 also describes what abiding love looks like…it never fails. We see from David and Jonathan’s friendship that abiding love expresses itself in both sacrifice and giving to the other person just as God did for us through His Son.
Sacrifice and Giving
Verse 4 says, “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.” Not only was this a kind gesture and gift to his friend, but this gift came with great sacrifice from Jonathan. Because Jonathan was the firstborn of King Saul, he was the rightful heir to the throne. But his gift to David of his royal robe reserved for the heir to Saul’s throne signifies that he was willing to sacrifice his own inheritance for his friend David. That was a huge sacrifice!
Think about your most prized possession. Most likely it is something that has deep significance or meaning to you personally. Imagine giving that up to your friend just because you love her. Could you do this with a glad heart in a spirit of generosity? As much as I love my friends, I know I would have a hard time sacrificing this much to give to them. Jonathan chose the hard thing for himself to give the best to his friend. His abiding love for David foreshadows the same sacrificial love Jesus gave when He laid down His right as heir and eternal throne to give His own life for us to have salvation. He chose to carry out God’s will instead of His own, which is how we model the same sacrificial love in our friendships. We do this most importantly to show others the gospel through our friendships.
True friendship is not easy. Just like anything that brings blessings in life, friends require time, commitment, loyalty, and most importantly, selflessness. We see a theme in these three characteristics from David and Jonathan’s friendship. We learn that there is no way to be selfish and have a true friendship. It is impossible because true friendships require a common bond and relationship with Christ, abiding love that comes from Christ, and our love expressed by constant sacrifice and giving.
Are your friendships this way? Can you talk about heavenly things easily with your closest friends, or does the topic of faith never come up? Is there abiding love in your relationship that means selflessness and forgiveness are evident? Do you both sacrifice and give to one another regularly to express your love for one another? I have experienced these kind of friendships, but, yes, they are few and far between. Pray for them, seek them out, and when you gain them, prize them dearly because when you “walk with the wise [you] become wise.”
Heavenly Father, thank You for the true friendship You offer us. Help us to be a true friend to You first in our lives. Also, thank You so much for true friends with whom You bless us. Give us those lifelong friends who have a spiritual connection, where love abides, and where sacrifice and giving are regular expressions of our love. Help us be a friend like Jesus!
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
1 Corinthians 15:33