The Builder: Jonathan—Build Manly Friendships


We all want close friends—at least, in theory. But when it comes to fulfilling the requirements of truly close friendship, few are willing. Studies have shown that friendships among men can be quite shallow. Many men have few close friends; some have none. In a fractured, distracted, isolated world, friendship has become a lost art.

The Bible describes just what a blessing a deep, godly friendship can be. It also has one of the most moving examples of friendship you can find: David and Jonathan.

David’s victory over Goliath was an extraordinary event. This teenager had demonstrated exceptional courage and faith in a time of cowardice and doubt. Jonathan, the son and heir of the king, was deeply stirred. He recognized God’s presence with David and wanted earnestly to join closely with this godly young man. He stepped out and initiated a friendship. “And it came to pass … that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1).

This was an extraordinary choice. Jonathan was 20 years older than David; he was married and raising children; he had royal training and impressive accomplishments. But he also had uncommon humility and perspective. Instead of feeling threatened by David’s success, he sought to learn from it and embrace it. This laid the foundation for a spectacular friendship.

Jonathan had a beautifully selfless love for David. He cast vanity aside and gave of himself wholeheartedly (verses 3-4). The greatness of his attitude is clear when contrasted with the carnality in King Saul’s. Saul saw David as a threat and wanted him dead (verses 7-9, 12-13, 15, 21, 25, etc). When Jonathan realized this, he remained loyal to his companion (1 Samuel 19:1-2).

God used a series of grievous trials to prepare David for kingship. David’s friendship with the king’s son proved a life-saving blessing. Jonathan began to see that God intended his young friend to inherit the throne of Israel—instead of him. But he did not allow vanity or jealousy to corrupt his thinking. Remarkably, the man who had been passed over for kingship knit himself to his own replacement!

“Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee. … So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the Lord even require it at the hand of David’s enemies. And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul” (1 Samuel 20:4, 16-17).

What would you do to have such a friend looking after you, watching your back, helping you in your trials?

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). Companionship is wonderful during good times, but it is essential during tough times! It is when we fall that we really need a friend to help us up.

To have such a friend, you must be such a friend. Enjoying the unconditional, there-when-you-need-it love of true friendship comes at the cost of giving such love. How dependable are you when someone beside you falls? If you are in a relationship for just what you can get out of it, then as soon as your self-interest isn’t being served, you will leave. As your feelings change, your friends change. That isn’t true friendship.

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary explains, “A true friend loves at all times; but it is in adversity especially that he becomes as a brother born to you …. It is when put in the fire that the gold is proved. There ought to be no intervals of forgetfulness or alienation in the true friend.” It is in adversity that the test of a true friend comes!

Invest real time into deepening your closest male friendships. Give generously of yourself, and be a man they can rely on in crisis. It will add richness to their lives and yours in ways you cannot anticipate, and it could end up saving you when you are the one in trial!