By Dn Ronnie Tan
A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Proverbs 27:6)
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
The best biblical example of what true friendship entails can be seen in the relationship between David and Jonathan. While much has been said and preached about David, Jonathan’s part in demonstrating what true, biblical friendship is all about is worth studying and emulating. Indeed, we can derive a number of meaningful, biblical lessons when we examine the friendship of these two men. Here are some of them:
It transcends status. When Jonathan, a prince, met David, a shepherd, Jonathan immediately formed a very strong friendship with David. (1 Sam 18:1-4) Jonathan did not allow David’s lowly status in society to stop him from forging a strong, lasting and meaningful friendship.
It is sincere. To show David that he truly treasured their friendship, Jonathan gave him his robe, garments, sword, bow, and girdle. (1 Sam 18:4) Jonathan’s gifts also signified his sincerity towards David which would last a lifetime.
It means going to great lengths to stand up for someone who has done no wrong. Jonathan stood up for David, even at the expense of angering his father, King Saul. (1 Sam 20:32) He correctly pointed out to his father that David had done him no wrong and should therefore not be hunted down like an animal and killed. For being true and faithful to his friend, we read that Jonathan was nearly slain by his own father. (1 Sam 20:33) However, that did not deter him from continuing to defend David time and again.
It means being ready to sacrifice for the other party. Jonathan had already known that David would be king at his expense if David was allowed to live. (1 Sam 20:31) It is unthinkable for a prince to give up his right to the throne for a shepherd. However, Jonathan was prepared to give up his right to the throne by letting David live. (1 Sam 23:17)
A true friend will never betray the other party come what may. At one point, when David wanted to know how Saul felt about him, they arranged that Jonathan shall signal to David about his father’s attitude towards the latter. In this instance, Jonathan had the perfect opportunity to betray David and cause the latter to be slain. All he had to do was to give David the wrong signal and it would result in David’s death. Indeed, Jonathan’s refusal to take advantage of the situation showed what a principled man he was. His actions allowed David to elude Saul yet again, thus ensuring that the throne would eventually go to David.
A true friend keeps promises. In 1 Sam 20:14-15, Jonathan asked that David be kind to his descendants and both men made a covenant to that effect. We are later told that Jonathan was tragically slain in battle. (1 Sam 31:2). Saul’s death paved the way for David to be king. After David ascended the throne, he did not forget the covenant he made with Jonathan. In 1 Sam 9, we read about David putting in effort to find out if any of Saul’s family members were still alive for him to shower with kindness. When he found out that Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth was still alive, David fetched him to the palace and even asked him to have his meals at the king’s table.
The meaning of true, biblical friendship, as exemplified by Jonathan and David, may seem a hard act to follow, but it is certainly not an impossible example to emulate. May God help us Christians not to be fair-weather friends but be friends who love at all times. (Prov 17:17)