I’ve been working my way through the story of David’s rise to fame in the Old Testament (I Samuel). Following his defeat of the giant, Goliath, King Saul honors David. But as David’s military successes continue and his popularity grows, Saul becomes jealous, and his kingship begins to unravel. King Saul is erratic and murderous, but his son Jonathan loves David. Reading over these familiar texts presents once again the beauty of friendship. David’s fame is costly to Jonathan. It cost’s him a relationship with his father, great fortune, and the fame of being the successor to the throne of King Saul. Yet none of this fractures the relationship between Jonathan and Saul.
In I Samuel 20: 24-42, we read the account of Jonathan’s plan to alert David to the King’s murderous intentions. Jonathan shoots some arrows near where David is hiding. His commands to the servant designated to fetch the arrows signals David that the King plans to kill him. Ultimately, David escapes, but before he does, He and Jonathan bid each other a touching farewell. There are tears and covenantal promises, and David’s life is spared.
We live in a largely artificial world. We have electronic communication, virtual relationships, and privacy fences. Without much trouble, we can live our lives largely untouched by those around us. Without question we need solitude, for some of us this is where we recharge our emotional batteries, but we also need relationships. We need real people who know all about us and love us anyway. We need to live together and laugh together and win and lose together. We need people who will encourage us and hold us accountable. We need to love and be loved and to learn to say, “I’m sorry,” and “will you forgive me?” The very essence of following God, after all, is summed up in Jesus’ “Great Commandment:”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37-38, NIV)
Loving God, and loving others is what it looks like to be a Christian. The simplicity of this, however, does not make it easy or prevalent. In fact, most Christians today live with far too little purposefully Christian community. We privatize our lives and our salvation to our own detriment.
So, here’s my idea, inspired by a dear friend in a 4 word text message. He said, “I appreciate your friendship.” We didn’t weep and embrace like David and Jonathan, but those words sank deep into my heart today and with them the desire to surpass a text message and sit around a real table with real buffalo wings with my real friend. In that simple message there was the reminder of covenantal promise and life-giving friendship.
Who is your friend? Have you told them how much you appreciate or love them lately? Are they a key source of encouragement in your Christian journey? You should tell them that. You should use your super-fast, electronic gizmo to set up an unhurried, sit-down conversation that God will use to bring life to both of you.
It was through the friendship of David and Jonathan that the mission of God was preserved. It will be through our relationships of Christian community that the same thing happens.