Empower Series 33: Becoming the friend you should be!


A friend is described as a person you know well and regard with affection and trust. One of the celebrated friendships in the Bible is that between the then-future King of Israel and the next-of-kin and son of the then current King Saul of Israel, a man called Jonathan.

In the eighteenth chapter of first Samuel, Scripture records thus:

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan become one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

To fully understand the context of this passage, it is worthwhile to note that King Saul, Jonathan’s father, was rooting for his son to succeed him on the throne of Israel. In this wise, Saul was jealous of the popularity David was gaining within the masses of the Israelite populace, and was worried that with David around, there was no chance of his lineage being perpetuated on the throne. In one instance, Saul actually verbalised this fear when he ranted to his son: “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! As long as the son of Jesse [David] lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die.” It is against this background that Jonathan maintained such a close friendship with David, the future King of Israel.

The scripture quoted above brought out some ingredients of the friendship of these two.

Love: Jonathan loved David as himself. Greater love has no man, than for a man to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). How great is your love for your friend? Do you love that friend like yourself? In 2 Samuel chapter nine, David went out of his way to seek any offspring of Saul, so he could show kindness for Jonathan’s sake. His love for his friend Jonathan went beyond their generation, even to his descendants.

Trust: David was able to trust Jonathan with his life. He stayed with Jonathan in his house, knowing that he wasn’t going to be turned over to King Saul. Whilst enemies stab you in the back, Oscar Wilde asserts that friends stab you in the front. You can trust friends. Can you be trusted as a friend? Can your friend confide in you and know that their secrets are safe with you and will not be heard on CNN the next minute? “It is more shameful to distrust one’s friends than to be deceived by them.” (Duc de la Rochefoucauld) David entered into a covenant with Jonathan, and it was kept by both parties. Years after Jonathan’s death, David recollected this covenant and showed mercy and love to the son of Jonathan, Mephibostheth. Trust leads to openness and frankness. Ralph Emerson asserted that “it is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them!” Trust also leads to realiability. Epicurus put it succinctly: “It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us.”

Sharing: Jonathan took off his robe, and gave it to David, together with his sword, his bow and his belt. Any friend who can’t share what he has with his friends is no friend. Caring is sharing. Sharing involves sharing of difficulties, problems and trials. A friend in need is a friend indeed. You will also find that with some friends, you will always be a friend indeed because they are always in need! But that is all part of the friendship package. According to George Washington, “true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.” Indeed true friendship comes out stronger through adversity. “Friendship that flows from the heart cannot be frozen by adversity, as the water that flows from the spring cannot congeal in winter.” (James Fenimore Cooper)

Identity: Jonathan made David wear his robe, identifying with him in that move, showing David that he didn’t consider him a lesser partner in their friendship. Friendship sees the other as an equal. A good friend seek a mirror image in the other. Aristotle asked “Who is a friend?” Thankfully, he answered it: “A single soul residing in two bodies.” Isabelle Norton puts it this way: “In a friend you find a second self.”

Togetherness: Jonathan went with David in his peril, even as the expense of making his father King Saul angry. Togetherness means that you get to know your friend more and more. These two friends spent time together, chatted. Togetherness provides the atmosphere for what Samuel Johnson called “constant repair”, perpetual growth and improvement in the quality of friendship. Do you spend time and effort to grow your friendship with others?

Affirmation: Jonathan affirmed the future kingship of David and accepted it. A true friend is able to rejoice when his friends are prospering and don’t become envious. A true friend challenges the other to his/her best ability. A true friend brings out the best in his/her friend. That was the testimony of Henry Ford: “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”

This world is in need of true friendships. May the example of David and Jonathan teach you how to be a true friend. If you are a true friend, your friend, like Euripides, can then be able to testify, when they think of you, “one loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.”

Quotes

Remember, the greatest gift is not found in a store nor under a tree, but in the hearts of true friends. Cindy Lew

“Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.” Elbert Hubbard

“Who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure.” Jewish saying

Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.
Albert Camus

“With every friend I love who has been taken into the brown bosom of the earth a part of me has been buried there; but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world.” Helen Keller

“The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this?” Henry David Thoreau

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King Jr.

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