Do you have any close friends? Do you have a best friend? I’m referring to another person with whom you have an implicit trust. A person with whom you may be transparent, and by being transparent you make yourself automatically vulnerable also. Do you have a friend like that? If you don’t, you’re not alone. In our culture, friendship, especially deep friendship, has fallen on hard times.
This is especially true with guys. Psychologists and therapists estimate that only 10% of all men ever have any real friends. But who cares what psychologists and therapist’s estimate, right? In 1985, a man named Michael McGill published his decade-long research of 5,000 men and women, and he concluded that, “Men do not value friendship.
Why is this?
It is no secret that men, by nature, are not as relational as women. Men’s friendships are typically superficial and center on activities, while women’s revolve around sharing. Men do not reveal weaknesses or their feelings as readily as women do. Men’s friendships are really acquaintances, usually business related, rather than relationships, and some men suffer from the delusion that “real men do not need other people.”
Tragically, men who think this way rob themselves, their wives, children, and their church because they will never be all God wants them to be. Guys, whether we want to admit it or not, we are relational beings. We need relationships that replenish us and build us up.
As with everything good, Christ is our example. He said this in John 15:13-15:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you…I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
His ministry was centered in deep friendships with the twelve, and there was the “inner circle” of three with whom He formed an even deeper friendship.
Think about this, being a Christian is a relationship! It is a relationship with God through Christ. God becomes our Father; we become eternal brothers and sisters. That’s relationship!
I firmly believe that a man’s wife should be his most intimate friend, but listen, to say, “my wife is my best friend” can be, and often is, a cop out on this subject. That is because each man also needs Christian male friends who understand the struggles with those areas that we keep secret and which our wives cannot fully grasp. We need someone who will offer counsel, pray with and for us, and hold us accountable to our commitments and responsibilities.
This is true not only of men, but of women as well. Today’s post will consider a prime example of this kind of friend.
A Great Friendship
If you have time, click on 1 Samuel 14:6, 11-15 and read a little about Jonathan, the son of Saul. If ever there was a “man’s man” it was this guy; and if there ever was a man who felt the need for a friend it was Jonathan. The Philistine’s dominated Israel so completely that they allowed no blacksmiths in the land for fear they would make weapons for the Israelites. Only King Saul and his son Jonathan had swords in all of Israel!
The whole nation was in a dark funk of depression and despair, all that is, except for Jonathan. He saw matters differently. He believed that if God willed it, Israel could be saved. While others looked down, he looked up and saw a great and glorious God who could deliver him anytime He saw fit.
Armed with this conviction and his sword, Jonathan and his armor-bearer launched a horrifying single-handed attack against a Philistine detachment. Blood ran to the dust and white bone gleamed in the sun as Jonathan sliced and hacked 20 Philistines. Their dead bodies covered a terrible half-acre of ground. Blood-covered Jonathan was one tough customer! His heroics spurned his backslidden father into action and, for a short while, Israel enjoyed some good days. But with Saul’s subsequent sin and Godless leadership, Israel fell to even darker days than before, and Jonathan was more alone than ever. Even his lion heart was affected as he too trembled before the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:8-11). There was none in Israel who was like-minded, he no doubt thought until he encountered David. He could not believe his ears as David called out to the giant in vv. 45-47.
Then David ran full-speed at Goliath and nailed him right between the eyes! Blood-covered David stood above the 9’9’” dead body, holding the decapitated head in his hand. At last, Jonathan had someone whose heart was in tune with his, a friend! Their friendship provides the essential elements for all genuine friendships.
The initial element in Jonathan and David’s great friendship was mutuality (“possessed in common”) of soul. Consider 1 Samuel 18:1.
And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David.
Jonathan saw that David viewed life from the same divine perspective. That view was that God is sovereign and does as He pleases, and all of life is to be lived for Him. Here was a man whose heart beat with his!
This is the way it is with deep friendships. That doesn’t mean that friends think alike on everything, but they do share the same worldview and approach to life. This is why a Christian friendship can, and should, exceed anything that exists between nonbelievers, because a Christian friendship is based on a supernatural mutuality of soul. Here is what every Christian man has in common:
The same God The same authority
The same ultimate destination
The same purpose for living
The same experiences of godliness and worship
The same desires – to serve God, see people saved, etc.
Mutuality of soul is followed by love, and that is what the last phrase in 18:1 shows us, “and Jonathan loved him as his own soul”. What is so amazing about this statement is its immediacy. This love did not develop over time, but in a flash! It was because David’s sizzling soul met such a deep need in Jonathan’s. He loved David as himself, and this love would pay great dividends because honest, unselfish love has irresistible drawing power. David would be drawn to the same love.
Jonathan’s mutuality of soul and immediacy of love was followed by profound commitment. We read again from 1 Samuel 18:3-4.
Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
Notice the symbolism here. The Prince of Israel removes his royal outer garment and places it on the shepherd boy. This act by Jonathan formally abolished David’s status as a shepherd and placed him side by side as an equal. This was an act of honor, equality, and vulnerability on Jonathan’s part, and I think those are areas that men (at least this one!) struggle with. However, the deepest of friendships have in common this desire to make the other person royalty. They work for and rejoice in the other’s elevation and achievements. There is no desire to manipulate or control, no jealousy or exclusiveness.
Ask yourself, “Am I a kingmaker or a muckraker?
We won’t track all this down through Scripture, but suffice it to say that David never had a more loyal friend than Jonathan. Saul made David into an enemy of the state, but Jonathan remained loyal. Loyalty is indispensable to the survival of friendship. Many once prosperous friendships have ended because of disloyal talk. Deep friendship cannot occur unless there is mutual loyalty and trust.
David was often discouraged as a result of being hunted down by Saul, but Jonathan was a constant source of encouragement for David. 1 Samuel 23:16 says, “Jonathan went to David…and strengthened [him] in God.”
You see, Jonathan’s encouragement was more than the standard “Everything is going to be OK”. He “strengthened his hand in God” the verse says. Jonathan pointed David upward, to that grand perspective that had first drawn them together. In order to do this, his encouragement must have included instruction, prayer, and worship. Prverbs 17:17 tells us “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Another Proverb, 27:17, says, “Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
Discipline of Friendship
It is sadly true; friendship has fallen on hard times. Few people, especially men, have good friends, much less deep friendships. This is a great tragedy for self, family, and your church. However, friendships, casual, good, close, and deep ones, are there to be made if we value them, as we ought, and if we practice some simple disciplines of friendship.
Prayer – pray for opportunities to develop friendships. Pray for God’s help in being a “Jonathan” to others.
Friendliness – We need to work at friendliness, to be consciously cheerful, ask questions, place ourselves in situations where friendships happen. Place yourself in the way of friendship: a S.S. class, church fellowships, retreats, etc. Take the initiative!
Work – few valuable things in life just happen, they require work! Those who have friends place importance on them and work at them.
Affirmation – Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a compliment.” If you work at affirming others, you will have friends. Don’t flatter, be honest and affirm others.
Listening – Be a good listener, and you’ll have friends and will be a good friend. When you listen well, people know that they are important to you. That is a key to friendship.
Acceptance – Life is filled with small rejections, and many people live with their guard constantly up. If we discipline ourselves to be accepting, people will be drawn to us. An open, accepting soul is like a well-lit home on a cold dark night.
Hospitality – This is not just for women! 1 Peter 4:19, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” is a transgender command!
It doesn’t matter how many Facebook “friends” or Twitter followers you have. Social media is no accurate gauge of healthy, Godly relationships. Consider what we’ve learned from God’s Word and the example of Jonathan and David’s friendship, then ask yourself, “What can of friend am I?”