Often I find myself reflecting over some certain issues for a while and I have thought about friendship for the longest time now one reason being to thank God for the relationships in my life (I am truly blessed!) and another reason has been to pray that the Lord makes me a better friend to the people around me, allowing Him to prune out every bit of pride in me or selfishness that makes relationships difficult, and Glory to God, I am a faithful work in progress. And I do not count it any coincidence that in that season I have taken another walk through the book of 1 Samuel and I could not help but marvel once again at the friendship between Jonathan and David. This great story is what I would want to keep looking up to to learn authentic relationships with community.
In an era where we flood photos all over social media with friends in parties and in the evening still post to say ‘feeling lonely’, ‘I don’t need anyone to survive’, ‘in my own world and liking it’, ‘enjoying my personal space’ and so on- we are all mixed up and it leaves us in a quagmire of what friendship truly means. Why does it feel that even when we are so surrounded we are still so alone?
Most of us Christians have experienced total friendship shutdowns- some of us have walked through painful splits, others have been betrayed by friends they trusted, and still others have closed their hearts entirely to avoid being hurt. As a result, koinonia becomes a fancy theological word for something they will never experience. (Koinonia is a Greek word that means fellowship or communion).
It’s as if we have forgotten how to have true friends and we want to live in isolation combined with a few photos and superficial attachments and we are good to go. We enjoy the feeling of carrying our own burdens, making our own rules, after all we have already invited the idea of ‘this is my world.’ But then something is extremely wrong with this kind of a life because it easily takes us into depression, and the rate of suicide cases hitting the headlines is a sad reality. I have eventually come to a conclusion that it was not the idea of God that i exist in ‘my own world’ and that is why He made community.
Superficial friendships are very easy to have but as I read through 1 Samuel, the idea of superficial friendships is challenged, I would want to keep establishing friendships beyond the normal just like this two!
Lessons through the friendship of Jonathan and David:
- God orchestrated the circumstance and chemistry. In 1 Samuel chp 18: “After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond,” or literally the text says, God knit their souls together, “a love between them and they became best friends. From that day on Saul kept David with him at the palace and wouldn’t let him return home.” David was very, very different than Jonathan in terms of social status. A shepherd was not a high-class job and David was the youngest boy of all the sons. So David is on the low, low rung of the social economy of the day and Jonathan is a prince and he is going to become the next king. And as I look through this I can’t help but notice how sometimes we unconsciously filter about the kind of people we think we should connect with (perhaps in terms of class, age, race, denomination, how they come in dressed up and so on) and in the process we miss to note God connecting us to them. We miss to notice the interesting way God ‘match-makes’ His own! Here, I notice the first highlight of this great friendship was a spiritual connection- It all starts with God.
- To gain and have friends we have to be intentional. Verse 3: “And Jonathan made a special vow to be David’s friend,”. He takes the initiative. “And he sealed the pact by giving him his robe, his tunic, his sword, his bow, and his belt.” We do not just find ourselves in friendships, in order to make deep friendships, there should an intentional pursuit and commitment. It’s like Jonathan sees something in David and he is like, ‘I want to know him better.’ It may take us efforts to pursue a friendship or it will remain shallow.
- Jonathan always offered encouragement. When David was fleeing from Saul in the wilderness, Jonathan traveled to Horesh to cheer up his friend (1 Sam. 23:16). We need each other! My dad told me recently that if I am not able to identify at least 3 positive things I can tell someone they have done well or atleast have identified as their potential (which I should verbalize to them for encouragement) but I have some negative things I need to tell them to improve I should keep them to myself, because there is a greater likelihood that I am just judgmental. This statement is not to stop me from correcting my friends, it is to stop me from criticizing them all the time.(And thank-you for the mentorship Dad!). We have enough critics in the world, you can choose to become a cheer leader- a source of encouragement to others. Some friends can really sap out our energy and keep demoralizing us because the only time they are ready to give you feedback, it has to be about something negative that you need to correct, friendship should be a beautiful balance of saying the truth- both in cheer leading and correction.
- Jonathan showed sacrificial love to David. Jonathan loved David so much that he risked his life to help him fulfill his mission. Jonathan even dodged Saul’s spear in his effort to help his friend. He lived in the spirit of Jesus’ words about friendship: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
- Jonathan kept his friend’s pain confidential. David confided in his friend Jonathan, and in some cases he poured out his heart in frustration. At one point he said to Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my iniquity?” (1 Sam. 20:1). When we are going through a difficult trial,we sometimes just need to vent and should have loyal friends who will let us process our pain without running around to tell others about our weaknesses.
- Jonathan harbored no jealousy. At one point in David’s journey, Jonathan realized his friend would one day be king of Israel. This was actually Jonathan’s inheritance, since he was Saul’s son! but he acknowledged that God had chosen David instead. So he gave David his royal robe, his armor and his weapons (1 Sam. 18:3-4). This is a beautiful picture of how we are to prefer and honor each other. Jealousy destroys friendship. If we have God’s love in our hearts, we will want our friends to surpass us. We will joyfully celebrate our friends when they get what we think we wanted and we miss it all together. Most of the shallow friendships are characterized by some secret competition, where we keep evaluating if our friends are ahead of us in life through salaries, jobs, education, relationships, achievements and so on, and we hide this secret competition in the common statement,…’I am happy for you’ but deep in our hearts we still feel we should be doing better than them. May the Lord forgive us of this sin and may we careful to notice it when it is creeping in, jealousy is like a weed, you allow it to find a place of growth in your heart and it will keep sprouting up and in the end destroy the friendship. May we be redeemed from secret competitions in friendships!
- Jonathan offered his friend protection. When Jonathan realized his father was plotting to kill David, he not only warned him of danger but he concocted a plan to deliver his friend (1 Sam. 19:1-4). Friends don’t let friends get massacred in warfare- i am always challenged by a friend who decides to fast and pray on my case, It is extremely encouraging! Protection could come in form of praying for them or shielding them from negative false rumours or alerting them of danger including rebuking their bad decisions and lifestyles with love.
- Jonathan was available. ‘When crisis comes, friends arrive.’ We find that the story continues and Saul and David are going through a number of different things. And then by verse 20, “David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan.” and he finds Jonathan. And basically he says, “They are trying to kill me.” And Jonathan’s response, “Tell me what I can do.” Jonathan is available. Jonathan listens, Jonathan basically says, “What do you want me to do?” Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Crisis often reveal who your true friends are. When crisis comes, there is sacrifice. And when crisis comes, the people that show up and ask this question, “What can I do?” are just heaven-sent- Friends! I am getting challenged in this aspect to learn to evade all the excuses we always have when friends need help. I pray that i will be faithful to easily being found available during such moments.
I may seem to have favoured Jonathan in my study, but he stands out to be my best character among the two, many of us would want to have a Jonathan in their lives, but I am challenging myself to be a Jonathan to my friends. In my own journey of friendship the Lord has taught me key lessons too:
- Jesus alone can satisfy the soul: As we grow closer to each other we should be careful not to start idolizing one another and forget the place of Christ in our hearts at individual levels, the satisfaction that Christ brings can only be given by Him alone, we should not mix it up. Our true friends are supposed to be keen not to encourage us, consciously or unconsciously to place our affections elsewhere. You see in Matthew 16, I would have thought Peter was acting out of love for Jesus who was his dear friend when he rebuked Him from saying that He would die and rise again, in our modern day we would call that loyalty perhaps but Jesus told him, ‘get behind me satan!’ that was savage, right? we would think that, anyway Peter was keen not “to wish ‘bad’ things to happen to a friend” little did he know he was an hindrance to Jesus obeying God! In my friendships I have learned that I need to keep reminding each of my friends of the greatest Joy that can only be found in God and encourage them to obey God’s call on their lives, lest I become an enemy in disguise. We will enjoy our friendships more, if they keep becoming a means of enjoying God. I should celebrate the friendship that will not let me have peace when am not practicing my spiritual disciplines that will help me walk with Christ better.
- True friends should expose sin in us that keeps us from God. (Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.(Prov 27:6). I think the greatest reason i need friends is not just to make me feel less lonely, go out for parties or even buy me ice creams (btw i really love them), i need them to lovingly show me my sin, i need people who are brutally honest, sin can easily make me a proud fool, and at that point i need an honest friend to tell me what i do not want to hear (Eph 4:15). If i would have my friend excusing my sin and giving me a false hope then they become my enemies in disguise.
- True friends bring us to God in our weakness. Luke 5:18-19- those men who brought in the paralyzed man by the roof always challenge me, i mean the guy had lost hope but glory to God for his friends! Alone in this world we will grow weary, we really need friends to carry us on. We can meet our friends practical needs or bring them genuinely to God in prayer especially when they seem to have grown weak in their faith. There is nothing as encouraging that i have received in my most difficult times as a genuine text saying, ” I am praying for you.”
- True friends should love us for the glory of God. By the way loving people is the hardest thing to do. Many of the people who love me genuinely know its such a difficult task, but when we love people not for ourselves but for the glory of God we are able to love them genuinely, especially when they are unlovable in human eyes. I mostly do not relate with this worldlistic idea of telling people, “I can’t live without you, i cannot imagine how life would be if i did not meet you… and so on” which forces a false adrenaline rush in our bodies of excitement and then we actually forget our declarations immediately that person does something wrong to you, you take just one decision to completely flash them out of your life and you now meet them with an attitude. “Like everything else, the end goal of our friendships should be God and his glory, since our hearts are prone to wander away and worship ourselves later on we should constantly remember that loving people was never just for us”- John Piper.
- Our friendships should not become hotbeds of gossip. Gossip is juicy but we should try as much not to make other people the subject o our meetings. It is like a normal thing that when we meet people we feel we trust, we intentionally start talking about another person simply because you know that information will not reach the person of discussion, but the reason we should avoid gossip is not to avoid information from leaking out but it is because God detests it! It is evil and we should shun it. Any ‘gossiping relationship club’ is always preparing for its own death since the parties are not building each other in any way.
- Friendship is not meant for angels, just in case you are one you may not get company here on earth where people like myself exist, we are so hard to correct and to walk with. We should therefore remember to extend the same Grace Christ has extended to each one of us.
- We should celebrate our Friend’s friends. Sometimes when not careful its possible to create a dangerous clique that does not allow the other person to have any other friend except yourself. Selfish indeed! We cannot be all we need and that is why we exist amidst other million people, we should be willing to allow others to bring positive input into us, so long as another person brings positivism into our friends so why would i feel bad if they become close? this will still rolls down into celebrating each other genuinely when they have what we don’t.
Finally; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
And when we have loads of hurt from past friendships, we should rest in the embrace of the One who Orchestrates Friendships all together, He will faithfully guide us.
Walking towards becoming a Jonathan, So help me God,