Biblical lessons on friendship.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” –Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Recently nearly half of Americans reported that they have few close friends, more than a quarter of young adults are estranged from one or both of their parents, and a record number of a quarter of 40-year-olds have never been married. These statistics would have been staggering just a century ago. But today, a growing number of people live life largely on their own.
While various circumstances led to the shaping of today’s society, God’s word has always emphasized the need for Christians to find community and companionship.
One of the most famous friendships in the Bible took place between David and Jonathan in the book of 1 Samuel. Jonathan was the son and heir to Israel’s King Saul at the time he first encountered David—the man chosen by God to inherit Saul’s throne. Theirs was a relationship that should have been described as a heated rivalry, but instead Jonathan immediately recognized God’s call on David’s life.
Soon after David’s battle with Goliath, his popularity began to rise within the Israelite community. Meanwhile King Saul felt his leadership role was under threat and began plotting against David (1 Samuel 18:6-16). Despite all that, Jonathan and David’s friendship continued to grow in depth as the Bible cites how Jonathan “delighted much in David” (1 Samuel 19:1).
The book of 1 Samuel goes on to describe King Saul repeatedly pursuing David in an effort to end his life, while Jonathan steps in time and time again as a faithful friend warning David of looming dangers, reminding him of God’s call on his life, and encouraging him when he fell into despair.
In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged.”
God’s word teaches us that it’s not good for man to be alone. A true friend is one who encourages us when we face extreme difficulties—someone who walks in when others are walking out. A true friend speaks a Biblical word of truth over our lives, even during the times when we might not want to hear it.
While our society undoubtedly grows ever more individualistic, we as Christians must find ways to provide the kind of friendship to one another that Jonathan provides to David—a self-sacrificial and faithful friendship, helping our fellow Christians look to Christ in our times of need and making space to better love those who might not know Christ.
Proverbs 18:24 describes a friend “who sticks closer than a brother.” We know that ultimately Christ is that friend. Even more than the loving Jonathans in our lives, Christ shares in our troubles and our sorrows. He sacrificed his life so that we might be reconciled with God, and because of that sacrifice, we are able to love others more fully and sacrificially.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13). What are the friendships God is calling you to step into more fully today? Who are the people he’s asking you to turn your attention to and live this life with?
Dominique McKay is a Women's Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.