Last Sunday's sermon topic had to do with friendship, specifically the friendship between David (the shepherd boy who was anointed to be king by Samuel and who later killed Philistine giant Goliath with a slingshot and a stone) and Jonathan (son of Saul, the then-current King of Israel). Read about the beginning of their friendship here:
1 Samuel 17:57 - 18:1-4 -- 'So when David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner (Saul's cousin who was also an army commander) took him and brought him before Saul with the Philistine's head in his hand. And Saul said to him, "Whose son are you, young man?" And David answered, "I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite."
Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. And Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father's house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt."
Notice that the phrase "loved him as himself" is repeated twice.
These gestures by Jonathan were remarkable. He was essentially relinquishing the symbols of his position as the king's son and assigning them to David.
As I'm sure you know, this friendship took a lot of twists and turns when Saul turned on David and sought to kill him, but the loyalty remained steadfast between them. Often it seemed to me that Jonathan was making the greater sacrifices, but David's heart was revealed in later years when Saul died and Jonathan was killed in battle. By then, David was on the throne of Israel. He found Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son who was "crippled in both feet" according to 2 Samuel 9. David brought him to live in the palace and "eat at the king's table."
I have been blessed with wonderful friendships throughout my life. Many continue today. We have rejoiced with each other through good times and stood beside each other in challenging, sad, and difficult times. I can cite reams of examples where people have demonstrated true, sacrificial friendship to me. I doubt seriously that a similar list can be created by one of my friends describing times when I have been the kind of friend that person needed. Very convicting.
I am challenged by the words "loved him as himself." The same concept is found in other places in the Bible.
John 15:13 -- Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends."
Philippians 2:3 -- "Let each of you regard one another as more important than himself."
As I ponder these words, I believe God is telling me to become a better friend. I'm praying about how that will flesh itself out in the coming years. I pray that when a friend needs me I will be ready at a moment's notice to minister thoroughly and sacrificially. I pray that God will show me what to do and how to do it.
What about you? What kind of friend are you? How do ALL of us need to improve our understanding of biblical friendship?