“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. . . . It has not survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival” — C.S. Lewis
No matter what a guy may say, guys want the friendship and respect of other guys. I want the friendship and respect of other guys. Nobody wants to be looked down upon by their peers. Nobody wants to go through life alienated and alone.
Friendship gives value to survival. Have you ever felt that life seems like a matter of survival at times? I know that I have.
When I went away to college, I only knew 3 people at a university of 16,000 students. It was the first time I lived away from home and I was alone and I sought the company of other guys (and girls). I ended up where a lot of (non-Christian) college guys go, fraternity rush parties. As a result, my closest friends were those in the fraternity that I joined, and many are still friends today.
But, according to Solomon, just having a group of close friends isn’t enough.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer (real friend more loyal) than a brother.” — Proverbs 18:24 NIV (NCV)
I have to believe that Solomon learned some great life lessons from his father, David and we probably know more about David’s entire life than most any other person in the Bible. But, beyond all of the lessons we can learn from David’s reign as king, it was the time prior to him taking the throne that we can learn the most in regards to true friendship.
Jonathan and David
Jonathan, King Saul’s oldest son, was a warrior and a man of faith. He believed that anything was possible if God willed it. Heavily outmanned, Jonathan and his young armor bearer attacked one of the Philistine outposts and defeated them. The Lord honored his faith and led Jonathan on a rout of Israel’s enemy.
Sometime later, the giant Goliath led a Philistine force against King Saul’s army. He offered a challenge to any Hebrew warrior willing to take him on in hand-to-hand combat. David, just a shepherd boy at the time, stepped up to the challenge. With faith in the Lord, David slayed the giant and became a fierce warrior.
Immediately following the battle, “After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond of love between them (became one in spirit), and they became the best of friends (loved him as himself).” 1 Samuel 18:1 NLT (NIV)
They instantly formed a bond through their mutual respect of each other as warriors and their devoted faith in the Lord. From that moment on, the friendship that Jonathan and David shared was deep, meaningful and unique, especially in today’s world. It would be rare to find a couple of (heterosexual) guys today who would openly say that they “loved” another man, but that is the sort of relationship that Jonathan and David had.
Following Jonathan’s death, David wrote, “How I weep for you, my brother Jonathan! Oh, how much I loved you! And your love for me was deep, deeper than the love of women!” — 2 Samuel 1:26
America’s leading psychologists and therapists estimate that only 10 percent of all men ever have any real friends, according to Alan Loy McGinnis, author of The Friendship Factor.
“Men’s friendships typically center around activities, while women’s revolve around sharing. Men do not reveal their feelings or weaknesses as readily as women. They gear themselves for the marketplace, and typically understand friendships as acquaintances made along the way, rather than as relationships. Also, men fear being suspected of deviant behavior if they have an obviously close friendship with another man. Tragically, those who think this way will never be all God wants them to be.”
— R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man
Key components of Jonathan and David’s friendship
Bonded Soul - Common Values and Experience
Jonathan and David were both dedicated to the same Lord and God.
- (Jonathan) “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord.” — 1 Samuel 14:6
- (David) “ . . . but I come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty.” — 1 Samuel 17:45
David and Jonathan instantly became “one in spirit” upon meeting each other.
- “There was an immediate bond of love.” — 1 Samuel 18:1
They made a covenant with each other.
- “Show me this kindness as my sworn friend – for we made a covenant together before the Lord.” — 1 Samuel 20:8
A deep friendship like theirs shared mutual experiences (as warriors), mutual values (to serve and submit to the same Lord), mutual goals (after God’s heart) and mutual dreams (from a divine perspective). They didn’t necessarily have to have identical goals and dreams in order to be close, but they were of the same God, serving the same God and pursuing the same God.
Love – Trust and Encouragement
True love often means putting another’s desires and needs above one's own.
- “And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as much as he loved himself.” — 1 Samuel 20:17
Jonathan put his friendship with David above his own relationship with his father, because Saul was no longer following the Lord.
- ”May the Lord be with you as he used to be with my father.” — I Samuel 20:13.
Trust was vital in their relationship.
- “I promise by the Lord, the God of Israel . . . may the Lord kill me if I don’t warn you so you can escape and live.” — 1 Samuel 12, 13
A deep, trusting relationship requires vulnerability.
- "Then they kissed each other and wept together (as they embraced)—but David wept the most." — 1 Samuel 20:41 NLT (NIV)
They each continued to encourage each other throughout their friendship.
- “Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.” — 1 Samuel 23:16
“Ordinary man can do extraordinary things. When people love each other—they fight for each other like you’ve never seen before.” — Captain Nate Self, Army Ranger Operation Anaconda (Afghanistan).
Commitment and Loyalty
Jonathan made an outward sign of commitment to David.
- “Jonathan made a special vow to be David’s friend, and he sealed the pact by giving him his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt.” — 1 Samuel 18:3
Jonathan stood up for David.
- (Jonathan to his father, Saul) “Please don’t sin against David.” — 1 Samuel 19:4
Jonathan asked the Lord to keep their friendship accountable.
- “May the Lord make us keep our promises to each other, for he has witnessed them.” — 1 Samuel 20:23
- “Go in peace, for we have made a pact in the Lord’s name. We have entrusted each other and each other’s children into the Lord’s hands forever.” — 1 Samuel 20:42
“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” — Proverbs 17:17
Sometimes I think that the stories, events and relationships like those in the Bible can’t happen in "real life." But they can, as John Eldredge wrote of his late friend, Brent Curtis, in The Journey of Desire:
“I lost the truest friend I have ever known. Brent was more than my partner; he was for me the rarest of gifts—his heart saw what mine saw. Our friendship was a shared journey, a mutual quest, for the secret of our souls. It took us into the mountains, into literature and music, into the desperate battle raging all around for the hearts of others as well. We laughed and grieved and scorned and yearned all along the way.”
To have a relationship like these should be the goal of every man and the desire for every woman for her husband or male friends.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” John Donne
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books). An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to [email protected].