This week I’ve been posting about one of the key relationships we all need in life: a true friend. Everyone needs someone in their life who loves them as much as they love their selves. Much ado has been made over the Old Testament relationship between Jonathan and David, even citing it as a point of argument for biblical support for same sex relationships. I think that reads way too much into the relationship and is purely speculative.
Jonathan does exhibit five characteristics of a true friend that will help you discover the person who will play that role in your life.
Characteristic number one is trust. “David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?” “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!” Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the LORD and by your own soul!” “Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed.(1 Samuel 20:1-4, NLT)
To understand the relationship between David and Jonathan, you have to dig a little deeper into the dysfunctional family system at work. Jonathan’s father, Saul, at the time was King of Israel. Like Jonathan, Saul loved David. But as time passed and David amassed success after success, Saul’s love turned to jealousy, then hatred. Saul felt as though the only thing he could do to squelch the rise of David’s popularity was to be rid of him. He saw David as a threat and was unrelenting in his determination to kill him. Jonathan did not believe his own father would kill his friend. Maybe he was naive, and maybe he was unwilling to face the cold, hard facts. But the point here is that Jonathan set aside his own thoughts and listened to David’s concern. In short, he gave David the benefit of the doubt and trusted him. Trust is the foundation of any authentic relationship. Until you have trust, everything else is built on shifting sand.
The second characteristic is love, which grows out of trust. The story line continues, “So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, saying, ‘May the LORD destroy all your enemies!’ And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.” (1 Samuel 20:16-17, NLT)
You’re probably familiar with the New Testament word for love, agape. The Old Testament equivalent to agape is hesed. Hesed refers to love that is based on mutual commitment. It describes the covenant love of God. When two parties mutually trust one another, love and commitment rises from that trust.
Sacrifice is the third characteristic of a true friend. Further down the page, the story reads, “Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. ‘You stupid son of a whore!’ he swore at him. ‘Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!’ ‘But why should he be put to death?’ Jonathan asked his father. ‘What has he done?’ Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David.” (1 Samuel 20:30-33, NLT)
Gore Vidal once said, “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.” Contrast his words with the words of John the Baptist, who in reference to Jesus said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” What’s the price tag of sacrifice? For Jonathan it meant succession to the throne of Israel. A Jonathan sacrifices himself for you, even knowing, as the original Jonathan knew, that the more your song rises, the more his or her own song fades into the background.
Tomorrow I’ll list the final two characteristics of a true friend. My prayer is that you have already identified that person in your life. And if you don’t feel as though you have a Jonathan, my prayer is that God will bring one into your life.