It is said that a friend is a gift you give to yourself. And no doubt, all of us need good friends.
Jesus had friends. He had a close friendship with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. We read from John 11.5, that "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." We can read about how Jesus could refer to His disciples as His friends.
In Acts 10, Cornelius was waiting for the arrival of the apostle Peter to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. It says in verse 24 that Cornelius "had called together his relatives and close friends" (Acts 10.24).
We need friendships that are good, because the Bible tells us that "Evil company corrupts good habits" (1 Cor. 15.33).
So often one gets into trouble because he has gotten involved in the wrong crowd. The bad influence and peer pressure of his friends compels him to do things he might otherwise not do. For this reason we are warned to "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul" (Prov. 22.24,25).
That makes it extremely important to form friendships with those who are good.
What do you look for in a friend? Or better yet, what kind of person do you need to be, so you can be a good friend to another?
In 1 Samuel 18, we read of two individuals who had what is sometimes described as the closest friendship in all of the Bible. It was a friendship between Jonathan, the son of King Saul, and David, the one who was to replace King Saul on the throne.
As we explore the relationship between Jonathan and David, we will discover some things that will both be qualities that we want to possess and those we want to find in others, so that we can be a good friend and have good friends.
If you are going to be a good friend, and if you want to find a good friend, you want to find someone who is going to love you for who you are. It is said that a good friend is one who knows all about you and still loves you.
The word "soul" in the text above is a word that can also be translated as "heart". It describes the inner man, the person of the heart. Here is Jonathan and David whose hearts are joined together. In 1 Samuel 18.1, it says that Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. In 1 Samuel 18.3, it says that David loved Jonathan as he loved himself.
What we are reading about are two individuals who were the best of friends, they were soul brothers. They loved each other as they loved themselves.
When we study the Bible on friendship, we learn an important principle. If you want a good friend, look for someone who will love you for yourself. If you want to be a good friend, then love as you love yourself.
What kind of love are we to have for our friends? The apostle Paul wrote about love in 1 Corinthians 13. In verses 7, we read...
Notice that in verse 7, Paul writes, "Love bears all things."
In the original language, the word "bears" is translated from the Greek word "Stegi." A Stegosaurus is literally a covered lizard. It is a dinosaur that was covered by these bony plates that protect it. The meaning of the word "bear" is literally "to roof over" [Strong]. It carries the idea of covering something up in the sense of protection.
The idea behind, "Love bears all things" is that love conceals or covers up their faults. It does not mean that a friend is going to ignore self-destructive behavior or sin. If you see a friend walking into a fire, you are not going to turn a blind eye and let them come to harm. You are going to warn him. You are going to run to him and turn him away from it. And if a friend does fall into the fire, you are not going to leave them there, but you are going to go and, even with great risk to yourself, reach in and pull him out of the fire.
A good friend protects you from sin and in essence protects you from yourself. Love will go to a friend and warn him about the dangers of sin and turn them away from walking right into the devil’s snare. If a friend is caught up in sin, a good friend will protect them by exposing their sin and pulling them out of the fire. That’s how love bears or covers all.
This is the point James made when he wrote, "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5.19,20).
A good friend is going to come to you when you are overcome by sin, correct you, and turn you around. That is the kind of friend you want to find, and that is the kind of friend you need to be.
Notice also that Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13.7 that love "believes all things."
Paul isn't saying that love is gullible. Paul is not teaching that if we love, we will believe everything we hear and become vulnerable to every con artist that comes our way, and not be able to discriminate between truth and falsehood. In fact, Christians are supposed to be skeptical. The apostle John wrote, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4.2).
Instead, "Love believes all things" carries the sense of someone who sees the best in others. A good friend is not going to automatically question your motives. To love is to believe the best in others. When you encounter the difficulties of life, a good friend says that they believe in you and has faith in you.
If you are looking for a good friend then you want to find a friend that believes in you. You want to find someone who is going to stand by your side. If you want to be a good friend, you want to be the kind of friend that believes in them.
Notice also that Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13.7 that love "hopes all things."
When you have faith in another, then that faith is going to be the substance of hope. What does that mean?
If someone comes to you with an accusation against your friend, what is the first thing you do? Do you say, “I’m not surprised. I knew they were bad news. I knew they were nothing but trouble”?
If you are a good friend, you may say, “I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that my friend would do something like that. It must be a mistake.” There is this hope that it is all just a misunderstanding. Because love believes in the best of others, it also hopes that there is an explanation for what may be perceived as wrongdoing.
Notice also that Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13.7 that love "endures all things."
A good friend doesn't complain about his friend. A good friend doesn't see his friend as a burden or an inconvenience. While there may be strains on the relationship from time to time, good friends will bear up under pressure, and their friendship will grow stronger.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. That's what you look for in a friend, and that is the kind of friend you need to be.
We saw that in the beginning of 1 Samuel 18, David and Jonathan were good friends because they loved each other. As we read through chapter 18, we find that conflict begins to arise in the household of Jonathan's father, King Saul.
We read that David went out to battle, and he was quite successful. He was so successful, in fact, that when David came home from battle some of the women began to sing, “Saul has slain thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam. 18.7).
This evoked great jealousy in the heart of Saul even to the point that Saul wanted David dead. When we come to 1 Samuel 19, Saul is talking to his son Jonathan and his servants and says that he wants them to kill David. Notice how Jonathan defended and stood by David's side.
Notice that in verse 4, Jonathan says to his father, “David has done nothing to you.” In verse 5, he says that David has done everything for Saul. Jonathan stood up for David and stood by his side.
Like Jonathan, a good friend is there even through adversity. We read in Proverbs, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Prov. 17.17).
The book of Proverbs is filled with parallelism. What that means is that a statement is made twice using different words. That is what you have here. Here is one who is a friend and a brother. A friend is there for you all the time. A brother is there for you through adversity.
In Greek cultures they would sometimes wear these shirts that had the words on them: “Summer” and “Winter”. The idea that was expressed was that even in the intense summer heat of criticism, even in the frigid winter cold of isolationism, there your friend will be standing with you.
We don't like to bear our souls to another. It makes us vulnerable. We like to keep those things that trouble us and bother us to ourselves. We certainly do not want to be the kind of person who goes around and complains about our problems to everyone and anyone who will listen.
But if you are looking for a friend, you want to find someone with whom you can bear your soul and know that your friend will listen. If you are going to be a good friend, you need to be one who is willing to listen to another who bears his soul to you.
When we come to 1 Samuel 20, there is still conflict in the house of Saul, and he still wants David dead. The trouble Saul is causing David is too much to bear, and he turns to his best friend Jonathan to bear his soul.
David has fled from Saul and has come to Ramah. He comes to Jonathan and asks, “What did I do wrong?” Here is David running from the King of Israel who wants him dead, and he turns to his best friend and asks, “What have I done?”
And Jonathan says, “No, you will not die”. He believes that his father won't do anything to David either great or small without telling him first. David responded by saying that Saul has concealed his plans from his son, Jonathan, and that David is only a step away from death.
Listen to the passion in the words of David as he bares his soul to his best friend. 1 Samuel 20.8: "Therefore you shall deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. Nevertheless, if there is iniquity in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?"
David asked Jonathan why his father wants to kill him. "What have I done? What is my sin?"
He then says to Jonathan that he is his best friend. He has treated him with kindness. And if he could not fix this, if he has done something that was deserving of capital punishment, then he wanted Jonathan to kill him. If he deserves the death penalty, he wanted Jonathan to flip the proverbial switch. He wanted Jonathan to pull the proverbial lever that would tighten the rope around his neck and open the floor beneath his feet. If he had done something worthy of death, he wanted it to be at Jonathan's hands, because he was his friend. So here is David, bearing his soul to his friend.
Like David, a good friend is one with whom you can bear your soul and they can do the same. We read in Proverbs 27.6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Sometimes we bear our souls to a friend, and we take counsel from them. We need help in knowing what to do. We are in distress and we need advice from a friend. Sometimes the counsel from a friend is not what we want to hear. It can be painful at times if we have friends who are brutally honest with us. Their honesty wounds us. But the wise man says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." In other words, faithful are the wounds that are caused by a friend.
We would prefer to have a friend who is going to be honest with us and tell us what we need to hear, even if it is going to be painful, than to have someone that just compliments us and tells us what we want to hear.
We also read in Proverbs 27.9: “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man's friend gives delight by hearty counsel.”
So here is a friend who bears his soul, and he takes delight in his friend’s hearty counsel.
Let's go back to 1 Samuel 20 and go down to verse 12. As we read these verses, notice how many times Jonathan uses the name of God.
Jonathan makes this situation all about God.
Over and over again Jonathan directs David’s attention to God.
Where is our attention to be directed? We can read in Matthew 22.37, that we are to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."
We are to love God with our heart, our soul, and our mind. Right? Not right! Jesus says to love God with ALL of our heart, with ALL of our soul, with ALL of our mind. Our lives must be centered around God. Everything we do and everything that defines who we are is our love for God.
Here is Jonathan calling David's attention to God, reminding him that he needs to put this into the hands of God.
If you are looking for a friend, look for someone who is going to help you serve God better and who will help you nurture your relationship with God. If you are going to be a good friend, then you need to do the same.
We all want friends. With friends we are always under the influence of peer pressure. We want to be liked. We want to be accepted. So we want to find a friend who is going to keep us close to God and will help us nurture our relationship with God.
By the way, when you are looking for a romantic relationship, you want to find a wife or husband who will be your best friend. You want to find a spouse who will help you nurture your relationship with God.
People are going to naturally gravitate toward certain individuals. People are going to develop friendships and have stronger relationships with some than they do with others. That doesn't mean that we cannot not have lots of friend or have lots of good relationships because we should. But we are going to naturally hit it off with some more than others. And when we do, make sure that those with whom you form relationships will nurture your relationship with God.
Whether you are...
Ask yourself if you have the kind of friendship where you love each other. Do you have the kind of friendship where you will stand by each other through thick and thin? Do you have the kind of friendship where you can tell each other anything, bear your souls to each other? Do you have the kind of friendship where you help each other draw closer to God?