Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13, KJV
“I know my husband loves me,” a woman confided at one of our family living seminars, “but we aren’t very good friends.” I’ve thought about that statement a good deal. Some time passed since I first heard those words, and I’ve lost touch with that person, but I’m wondering if, several years later, she would still add those words, “I know my husband loves me….” Can you really love someone without being a friend to that person?
Friendship is one of the most valued facets of the diamond of real love, and, I should add, at times one of the most costly commitments which you make to another person. This is why so many, playing it safe, reach out to other people with the warm handshake and the friendly smile, but never give that complete assurance that, “I’m your friend no matter what happens to you.”
A study of the ingredients of friendship could never be complete apart from a lingering look at two friends who lived almost 3,000 years ago. The beautiful story of two young men, deep and committed friends, whose names were David and Jonathan, contains all the ingredients of true friendship. Jonathan was the son of a king. By right of succession, he should have succeeded his father, Saul, on the throne of Israel, but God chose instead to give the crown to a young shepherd boy, David, who was about the same age as Jonathan. You will find the story in the Old Testament, in 1 Samuel l8.
The two were drawn together by respect for each other, which is the foundation of lasting friendship. Both David and Jonathan were warriors. David had slain his Goliath, and Jonathan had taken his armor bearer and battled the Philistines. Both of them were deeply committed to a causethat of Israel’s preservation, when the threat of extinction was real. It was David’s act of heroism that first brought these two together.
Scripture tells us that, following the death of Goliath, “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David” (1 Samuel 18:1, KJV), and that word in Hebrew means “to be chained together.” They were bound in common cause, and then the writer of Scripture says, “Jonathan…loved him as he loved his own soul” (1 Samuel 20:17, KJV). That commitment resulted in his making a covenant, as Jonathan stripped his robe from his back and gave it to David with his sword, bow and belt. The covenant of friendship has many elements: love, genuineness, care, compassion, forthrightness and many more. You’ll find them all in this story.
Taking another look at this friendship, notice that Jonathan had every right to be jealous of David, to consider him his avowed enemy and usurper of the throne, but he loved him as himself. This act of commitment is the second mark of real friendship, and it is this that can prove costly. As you read the story, it becomes apparent that their friendship was cemented by a third element which is present in all genuine friendships: sacrifice. In a beautiful display of courage, Jonathan warned David of impending danger, and David fled for his life. Long afterward, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). There have been occasions when friendship resulted in one’s laying down his life for anothernot many, but there are some. A person doesn’t need a great many friends, but everyone needs some. Think about it.
Resource reading: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.