Read: 1 Samuel 18
The Bible is full of stories about friendship. Failed friendships (Euodia and Syntyche), rekindled friendships (Peter and Jesus), friendships that never happened (Cain and Abel), working friendships (Paul and Barnabas)…
But perhaps the most famous story of friendship in the Bible is the one between David and Jonathan. What can you learn from this story that applies to character and virtue?
The main lesson is that friendship is a twinning souls around virtue.
1 Samuel 18:1 claims that Jonathan’s ‘soul was knit’ to David, which means that a close bond was forged between the innermost part of Jonathan to David. But what does that mean and how did it happen?
Notice that the text claims that ‘when David finished talking to Saul (then) Jonathan’ soul was knit…’ So there is a context in which this friendship is made. And what was that context? If you look at the previous chapter (1 Samuel 17) you will read that David had just defeated Goliath.
So this is what sparked this friendship. Jonathan sees before himself a daring man, with a crazy faith in a huge God. And what he sees is a twin soul. In fact, if you look back a few chapters to 1 Samuel 13, he did something very similar to what David had just done with Goliath, as he had ventured alone with his armour-bearer into the Philistine outpost claiming ‘nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many of by few’ (13:6). So Jonathan is just like David: he is a daring man, with a crazy faith in a huge God.
And it was this mirroring of souls that forged a deep bond.
The lesson we learn is that friendship is a twinning of souls around important things. And these important things include virtue. David and Jonathan, in fact, shared the virtues of courage, zeal and faith. And these virtues glued them together in their friendship.
Think about your best friends (which, incidentally, should include your spouse if you are married). What important things bind you together? Do these things include virtues? Are you deeply bound to someone because you share the virtues of compassion, or intellectual curiosity, or justice? Or think of the opposite. Have you recently lost or broken a friendship? Chances are that the reasons include a changed commitment to virtue.
In brief, it you want to make your friendship stronger and longer, cultivate virtue together, because virtue is the glue of friendship.
A prayer. Lord, thank you for the Davids in my life. Thank you for the friends with whom my soul is deeply bound. I recognise that virtue is the glue that holds us together, so grant us the grace to cultivate our character that we may continue enjoy the gift of one to the other.