Dear, Friends in Christ: It only seems like once in a lifetime do you hear of a friendship that seems to surpass any and every other friendship out there. A friendship that is so famous and regal, it makes our little friendships seem like peasants compared to the giant that is their friendship: Lewis and Clark, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Yes, bromance is in the air! Bromance: just a silly made up word that shows how close two friends can be. Friendships often can take different sizes and shapes. Some friendships are started simply because two families grew up next to each other. Some best friends are seen every day, while other best friends are across the world. Maybe your closest friend is your spouse or family member, or it could even be a friend that you went to school with. Maybe it’s just your cubicle partner at work! Either way, it’s interesting to see how and why worlds collide and friendships are forged.
David and Jonathan couldn’t have come from more different of backgrounds. Jonathan grew up as the son of a king. He grew up with the best education, with the finest clothes, with servants taking care of him, maybe even changing his sandals for him. He probably would be the next king. David, on the other hand, grew up working with his own hands out in the field. As a child he was learning the art of shepherding. He probably received a modest education. He grew tired after a long day’s work only to take off his own sandals that probably smelled like what was left behind the sheep. But, this young David would be chosen by God to be king after Saul. He would kill the nation’s biggest threat at that time, the behemoth of a man named Goliath in a showdown with a sling and a stone. And soon, David would be brought into the world of the military and as the king’s musician. Here, the most unlikely people, David and Jonathan, became best friends.
However, jealousy arose. After all, God wanted David to become the next king, not Jonathan. But, jealousy didn’t come from Jonathan. The jealous eye came from Saul. Saul was becoming paranoid that David would take over as king. Saul was jealous because of what people were saying about how awesome David was in battle. If David was the better warrior, then David had a greater right to rule over Israel, and more people would pledge their allegiance to David and not Saul. This suspicion and jealousy festered with murderous thoughts. Multiple times when David was playing music in front of him, Saul tried to kill him with a spear. Saul then demoted David in the military, but David continued to carry out his responsibilities faithfully, which didn’t help Saul’s jealousy. Jonathan would plead with his father not to kill David, which Saul listened to for a total of about 5 minutes. Saul ordered his followers and Jonathan himself to kill David. Can you imagine the pickle that Jonathan was in? Would he side with his friend or his father? Jonathan decided he would warn his best friend, David.
He asked David to take a vow. The vow he proposed is very important. The vow was to show love to Jonathan’s family when David would be king and not kill off his family for all the pain David went through. Do you see what that means? All the words Jonathan used presuppose that David would be king, replacing his father. Jonathan recognized David as the true and rightful king, though it meant the end of his own hopes of being king. He submitted to the will of God, and he had no jealousy toward David because Jonathan loved David as himself. He was a true friend. This was a friendship that as is rarely seen here on earth.
Maybe the Lord has blessed you with a friendship that sees glimpses of such love. I look at the history of my life, and I try to figure out which friends were good and which were bad, and I also try to define what a good friend is. In short, we know that good friends are those who are there for you, are loyal to you, they know you, and maybe they share some common interests or common experiences.
And looking back, I had both good and bad friends. At first, my best friends growing up were either based on proximity or interests or the toys that they had. For example, I had a good friend who was wasn’t far away and we enjoyed riding our bikes around. And my bad friends were the ones who would challenge me to say something naughty or do something mischievous. And sadly, I wanted to keep those bad friends around because I felt like I was validated and I was cool. As I got older, maybe the context changed, but the same idea was still there. In other words, the thought was always: what can I get out of this relationship? Sadly, my friendships were all about me. When my friend with the trampoline didn’t want to play, I was mad at him because I couldn’t use the trampoline! How silly that is, but that is how adult relationships even work sometimes. We get mad at a friend because we wanted to vent about the day or maybe just hang out and instead it becomes all about them and their bad day. Instead of being supportive, we sit there rolling our eyes because it becomes ALL about us. It’s sad because even the best earthly friendships fall short. Have you ever been hurt by a friend? Has a close friendship drifted apart? And we have to examine our own hearts too! Have I been selfish instead of self-sacrificing? Have my words torn others down instead of building them up? When have I remained silent instead of defending them?
David also knew the grief of having bad friends. After he had reigned as king for several years, his trusted counselor, conspired with David's son to take the throne from him and David had to flee for his life. Later in life, David’s commander in chief also conspired to make himself the king and not Solomon. We look at our Gospel lesson. Peter is quick to remind Jesus of his love. But just like we often fail in our friendships, Peter would later deny even knowing Jesus. What kind of friend would do that? We would. Peter would. When Peter weighed his friendship with Jesus, he looked at what he could get out of the friendship. He saw that he couldn’t get glory at that moment, but it would be death. So he ran! Earthly friendships fail because we are destined to fail because of our sin.
But I ask of you this: How would you define not just a good friend, but a good Christian friend? Now, I realize that Christians aren’t perfect at all. However, there is something deeper to a Christian friendship. We would probably use the same characteristics of any other earthly friendship, but we would add to that. Christian friends not only like to be with you and are loyal to you like friends would, but they also pray for you and they want to grow together in God’s word with you. And there’s more! Let's look at Jonathan and David. What made old Jonny boy and Dave’s friendship so awesome?
First, it was a self-sacrificing love, a love that put the interest of the other before their own. Jonathan risked the king’s throne and he risked his own life for David. Second, their relationship was based on loyalty and trust. David kept the promise he made never to cut off his kindness to Jonathan’s family once he became king, even after Jonathan died. Third, we see words that speak well of the other friend, even when they aren’t present. Jonathan defended David to his own father who could have killed Jonathan too! How could they do ALL these things? It was because their friendship excelled in the most important thing, love. And not that shallow love of the world based on emotion or what one person can get out of it, but a deep connection because of their love for God and their trust in God’s promises.
David would speak of the greatest promise in his psalms. Even his son Solomon would write: “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” It’s Jesus! Your God, your Savior, your friend. His love was demonstrated for you. On that night he was betrayed a little later than the words Jesus spoke in our Gospel today (John 13:31-35), he says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:13,14). That's you, dear friends. He laid down his life for you. Trust in him. Make him a priority in your life like a good friend. Lean on him because he never fails to help you. Not even death could stop him from keeping us as his friends because he loves us that much.
No doubt, we continue to live in a sinful world and that idea of love is a weird concept. Sometimes married couples will struggle with love. Sometimes, those looking to get married want to know more about love. Sometimes even with friendships, we want to know how to love each other better. Our epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 speaks to what love is. I don’t know about you, but I’ve NEVER lived up to that kind of love to my friends or God. But, God knows that, too. The difference is that God doesn’t give me the silent treatment. He doesn’t treat me like the worst friend ever. He doesn’t even condemn me because of my sin. Instead, He comes to me each day with a new supply of his forgiving love. He does that for you, too. Then, love received becomes love reflected.
A couple years ago, Coca-Cola had this short video with some of their workers going out and simply smiling at people to see who would smile back and then give them a Coke. It was kind of hilarious to see some of the reactions like people walking past as if that Coca-Cola employee was insane. But there really is something captivating about a smile, isn’t there? A lot of times, you want to smile back. That’s because it’s easy to reflect the love that is shown to you. The more love that is received, the more love that is reflected.
The easiest way to reflect God’s love is to simply thank God for our friends and to pray for them. We can thank God for our unbelieving friends who give us the opportunity to express that love and share God’s Word with them. But the best way to reflect that love to our friends is to be in God’s Word together. Friends that are in God’s Word together, stick together, because that’s where we see what true love is, love based on Jesus, the best friend anyone could ever have. Behind your friendships and mine, behind David and Jonathan’s friendship, there is love from God, which is completely undeserved. That is the joy of Christian friendship. Amen. ( And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus)