“Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”
I Samuel 18:3
Have you ever done this mental dance when meeting someone new?
“Wow, she’s really great. I’d really love to be her friend.
Maybe, I’ll tell her that.
Oh wait. I can’t look too interested.
If I let her know I really like her, that might not be cool and I’ll leave myself vulnerable.
And if she doesn’t feel the same way about me, I’ll feel embarrassed and rejected.
Since I am my highest human concern, I can’t risk that.
So, never mind. I won’t say anything.”
Maybe we haven’t articulated it exactly like that, but I think many of us could confess to being timid in friendships in the name of self-preservation and image management. To find a better way, we are going to pick up where we left off last week with Jonathan the Valiant intentionally aligning himself with David the Giant Slayer.
After Jonathan discovered this foundational kindred spirit and at his very core binds himself to David in friendship, he doesn’t just contemplate his regard for David. (Which is maybe about as far as most of us get in friendships.) He takes a giant relational-leap further and verbally pledges himself to David. It is the official formation of an intentional alliance – their personal league of extraordinary gentlemen.
How could Jonathan do that so confidently? And so early in their relationship, to boot? First, we know from last week that the common purpose they shared – that of living for the glory of God – is the strongest foundation any two people could have in any relationship. So we could speculate that some of his confidence could have come from knowing the quality of the person he intentionally befriended. People who truly want to please God will live in accordance to biblical principles and that makes for a loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled friend. (Gal. 5:22) It’s a pretty safe bet to commit to someone like that.
But the biggest key to his ability to pledge himself so unequivocally to David was this:
“… he loved him as his own soul.”
It is only when we truly love someone that our self-serving cries are stifled enough to give voice to holy and confident commitments. In that spirit, Jonathan models our second principle of extraordinary friendship – that of being COMMITTED to the good of a friend regardless of personal gain or cost.
Notice what is not recorded about Jonathan’s motives for this commitment. The text doesn’t say that Jonathan made a covenant with David because it would enhance his image to be seen with David. Or because David would have his back in battle. Or because Jonathan could meet more ladies since David was a harp-playing rock star.
No. Please see that, other than the spiritual “sharpening” impact David could have on him, there is no evident, self-serving benefit promised to Jonathan that causes him to commit to this friendship. As a matter of fact, our future study will reveal that Jonathan did boatloads more giving than taking. Because of his affection for his noble spirited friend, Jonathan simply cared so much for David’s well-being that he vowed to be around to ensure it.
The reason this breed of friend is so uncommon is because we have absorbed the consumer mentality of the culture we live in, and it has seeped into the fabric of our friendships. We simply love ourselves more than we love others and therefore, enter into and evaluate our friendships based on what we stand to gain from them.
We don’t make covenants with our friends; we have contracts replete with unspoken requirements, expectations and exit clauses. We won’t make a commitment because we’re only signing on for as long as the relational product meets with our satisfaction. And if it doesn’t any longer, we simply terminate the contract and go shopping. We are not committed companions, in the relationship for their good. We are conditional consumers in the contract for our good. It is no wonder our friendships can be plagued by disappointment and early demise.
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded by saying that it was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind & strength. But he didn’t stop there because; flowing out of and perfectly corresponding to the greatest commandment is the second one, to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matt. 22:37-39) Considering that Jesus said this was the second most important thing we could do with our lives, and considering that the pursuit of our personal, emotional satisfaction and relational ease don’t make that list of priorities, we need to seriously evaluate the degree to which a love for others is playing a role in the formation and evaluation of our friendships.
In his book When People are big and God is Small, Edward Welch says “Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them for ourselves more than we love them for the glory of God. The task God sets for us is to need them less and love them more. Instead of looking for ways to manipulate others, we [should] ask God what our duty is toward them.”
Committed companion or conditional consumer.
What kind of friend do we want to be?