Read: 1 Samuel 18:1-4
In speaking about character friendships, we come back to the story of David and Jonathan. We have seen that they were similar in virtue. But several of the other criteria listed in Week 13 – Engage a friend can also be seen.
Jonathan and David are peers. Although by birth Jonathan was a prince and David was a mere shepherd, Jonathan does not make use of this hierarchical division between them. The same is true of David, who despite his great success and popularity, always treats Jonathan with respect.
It is also remarkable to note that in the peer relationship there is no envy. David is not envious of Jonathan’s position and Jonathan is not envious of David’s success.
There is generosity. In 18:4, we see that Jonathan takes off the robe he was wearing and gives it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. These were precious personal belongings and Jonathan does not think twice in giving them to David without asking anything in return.
This was a concrete expression of Jonathan ‘loving David as himself’ (18:1). A generosity that we find again much later in the story as Jonathan goes to David who is fleeing from his father and ‘helped him find strength in God’ (23:16).
There is honesty and vulnerability. As the story develops in 1 Samuel 19-20 we see that the friendships between David and Jonathan encounters hardships. In particular, Jonathan’s father, Saul, is eaten by envy of David’s success and repeatedly tries to kill him.
Here we seek honesty and vulnerability on both parts as Jonathan informs David about what is happening (20:9,12) and admits to being relatively powerless, and David comes to Jonathan as first port of call to express his dismay and ask for advice (20:1).
There is a covenant of friendship. In 18:3 we see that Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. When this covenant is put to the test, Jonathan holds to it, even if it means going against his own father, the king. He speaks well of David to Saul (19:4) and takes the sides of David in the conflict (19:7)(20:2), even encountering the rage of Saul (20:30).
And in the midst of the tragedy, we see them renew their commitment to each other: So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself (20:16-17). And as the story unfolds, again we find David and Jonathan meeting to renew their covenant (23:18).
There is emotion. The expression of emotion is a mark of deep friendship. When tragedy comes upon David, Jonathan grieves for the situation and does not eat (20:34) and when they finally must leave each other in order for David to save his life, they kiss each other and weep openly (20:41).
And when the story ends with the tragic death of Jonathan, David composes an emotional lament: ‘I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women’ (2 Samuel 1:26).
A prayer: Lord may I be a friend like Jonathan. Free from envy. Generous in giving. Honest in what I do and vulnerable in what I cannot do. Faithful in my commitments and free to be emotional in my expression. And may you bless me with the gift of such friends as well.