As soon as the lad had gone, David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘May the Lord be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’” So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city. (1 Samuel 20:41-42)
I am amazed at the story of Jonathan and David. Jonathan was the kind of friend any of us would love to have. He risked his life for David, confronted the king, and fled for his life from the hands of his own father, all out of his love and friendship for David. There were many places in this story from 1 Samuel where Jonathan could’ve taken an easier road. He could’ve left David to himself to run and hide from Saul. He could’ve chosen not to become involved, to have befriended David in a less intrusive way. He could’ve been a “pot of stew friend,” as we used to say. That is someone who is happy to be your friend whenever you have a pot of stew on the stove. But when there’s nothing cooking, he’s nowhere around.
We have all had “pot of stew friends.” If we are honest with ourselves, we may be just such a friend to some people around us. Tim McGraw has a great country western song out that’s entitled, “You Find out Who Your Friends Are.” The refrain goes like this:
You find out who your friends are
Somebody’s gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas, get there fast
Never stop to think ‘what’s in it for me?’ or ‘it’s way too far’
They just show on up with their big old heart
You find out who your friends are
Can you think of a friendship you have that is costly for you to maintain? Isn't it the cost of friendship that makes it so rich, so satisfying? We hear a lot of preaching about fellowship, community, discipleship and relationship. But we don’t seem to talk too much about friendship. If we did, I believe we would find that one consistent characteristic of true friendship is the idea of journeying together. When we befriend someone we commit to walk side-by-side with them in their journey of life. Even if we are not physically present with one another, we find ways to stay involved, keep connected and engaged in each other’s lives. We cry together, laugh together, struggle, disagree, challenge and comfort each other.
In this last meditation on the topic of our relationship with our neighbor I’m going to leave you with this image of Jonathan and David and pray that you may know such rich and rewarding friendships in your life. They will require that we live outside of ourselves in service and love to others. This may be the greatest fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that if we will lose our life for him, we will find our life – the life that is truly life… the life abundant.
Here’s your challenge. Get together with three or four people that you consider to be good friends. Spend a couple of hours just talking about friendship; how to define it, why it’s valuable, how to know it when you see it, etc. Consider the question, “how does genuine friendship reflect the image of God in us?” We have a lot to learn about what it means to have great friends and to be a great friend. See if this little exercise doesn't help you in that journey.
Lord God heavenly Father, you have been described as the “friend of sinners.” In your friendship you not only loved us, came to us and encountered us where we were, but you took our sins on yourself, bore our guilt, endured our suffering and shame, and died our death. You have not only been a friend of sinners, you have been the savior of the world. For that I am so deeply grateful. Let me reflect that love in the friendships around me. Create in me a selfless heart so that I may truly be the kind of friend a friend would like to have. And in this way, let me reflect your image in which I was created. In the name of my Lord and Savior, and friend, Jesus Christ. Amen.