“After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together – but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” (I Sam. 20:41-42)(NIV).
I often tear up when reading this passage. Not just because of the beauty of the friendship between Jonathan and David, but because the Lord fosters the friendship at a time in David’s life when – on the run from a man intent on killing him – David is in such desperate need of it. Its timing is perfect. Since Samuel’s anointing of David as King in Chapter 16, David’s path hasn’t exactly been rosy. Rather, his journey illustrates (as Scripture is wont to do) that following God’s will for your life is, more often than not, a virtual guarantee of difficulty. But how like God it is to bring a friend to David’s aid who is wholly committed to loving and supporting him, no matter how challenging their shared path.
It also strikes me as compelling that Jonathan recognizes David’s intended kingship over his own claim as heir apparent (as Saul’s son), and worked to protect him, even to the utter contradiction of his own father’s wishes. There is a sacrificial love at work here, so much so that the author writes, “Jonathan…loved [David] as he loved himself” (1 Sam. 20:17). At a time when his father exemplifies the exact opposite, Jonathan lovingly embodies the edicts of Leviticus 19:18: “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”
I’m hard-pressed to think of a friendship illustrated in all of history or literature that is as pure and sacrificial as the one Jonathan shares with David. I pray that I am that kind of friend – willing to do what is good and right in the Lord’s eyes, and for the benefit of my friend, even if it means relinquishing my own interests or saying the difficult thing. I hope to be mindful of God’s use for me as a Jonathan when someone I know is on a difficult, David-esque journey. I want Him to find in me an opportunity to prove Himself consistent and good through the love I show to my neighbor.
Heavenly Father, thank you for creating us for communion, for making us relational creatures, and for giving us a chance to “practice” fellowship with You in our friendships with others. Let us not neglect to meet every opportunity presented to be You in human form – to exemplify your love and goodness by simply following your command to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” You are, after all, the author, conductor and creator of all relationships, and of Love itself. Amen.