Garth Brooks had them in low places. Joe Cocker had a little help from them. Michael W. Smith said that they were there forever. The Golden Girls were thankful about them. James Taylor said that you could call on one in “winter, spring, summer, or fall.” Hannah Montana even said that it would be alright again because you were a true one.
Of course I am talking about friends. Hopefully, after reading that list, multiple songs are stuck in your head. I am currently humming the theme to Golden Girls intermingled with Garth Brooks. As many great songs as there are written about friends, we are living in a day and time where close friendships are harder and harder to come by. Men are especially vulnerable to this friendship vacuum.
Often, you will hear men referring to their “buddies” – their work buddies, their fishing buddies, their drinking buddies, their poker buddies. This is affirmed in the mirror we call pop culture. You rarely see close friendships between men on television and in movies. You see plenty of buddies, but few close friends. The only close friends you see on television are between women (and very effeminate men.)
This is why many struggle with the relationship that develops between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan. We are simply not used to seeing men with close friendships. 1 Samuel 18 begins with David permanently entering into Saul’s household and bonding with Jonathan. This friendship would endure throughout their lives. And even after Jonathan was killed in battle, David remembered this friendship by extending kindness to Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth.
This friendship was dangerous for both men. David was God’s chosen heir to the throne, Jonathan was Saul’s. There was ample room for rivalry. But in what should have been a great deal of tension, there was a great deal of respect. 1 Samuel 18:1 says it very simply, “Jonathan committed himself to David, and loved him as much as he loved himself.” Not in some effeminate, sissified way as it is often portrayed, but in an honest, vulnerable relationship based on mutual respect and faith.
This is exactly the kind of relationship that Jesus commends to us, “that we would love others as we love ourselves.” The basis of all friendships is vested in this idea. God chose to highlight this relationship in the Scriptures because it was a wonderful model of a self-sacrificial relationship. Men still need these relationships today.
They don’t come easy. It didn’t come easy for David and Jonathan. We are told that they made a covenant with one another. The implication is that they had to work on it. They had to make sure to keep envy and jealousy out of their relationship. They had to make sure to maintain respect. Most of all, they had to remain selfless. Their relationship would be tested significantly over their lives. Jonathan had to watch as his father sought to destroy David. He had to watch as David rose in favor with men while his family fell out of the favor of the nation. I think it probably takes a lot more than a buddy to make it through those ordeals.
Proverbs 27:17 reminds us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This notion is best worked out in close, godly friendships that are mutually fulfilling. You have to ask yourself “Do I have those relationships in my life?” If not, what is stopping you from developing them?