In a Bible study I did a few years ago I read about the covenant friendship David and Jonathan shared. It began with a mention of how we sometimes feel instant kinship with another person, like we’ve known one another for years. And then there are those people we truly have known for years.
It was bittersweet for me to recently read back over what I wrote during that study and see the names of people who since that time have moved on in other directions in their lives. Such transience does not describe David and Jonathan’s covenant friendship.
Covenant friendship, according to the study, involves three elements:
While Sign and Solemn Oath are obviously important enough (each for their own purposes) to merit Ms. Moore’s mention, it was Sacrifice that really stuck out to me (and triggered most of my scribbled margin notes). Reading back over my notations I found a statement about the importance of sacrificial LOVE in a friendship, and that love is a choice—not a passive one, but an active one.
Love, as the song says, is a verb.
It’s no accident that David and Jonathan’s covenant friendship is compared to, and used as an example or type of, our relationship with God through Christ. Christ becomes our covenant through which we enter into relationship with our Creator God.
Which got me to thinking about how shallow many (most?) of our earthly friendships really are when compared to the kind of covenant that ties us to God.
How many flimsy friendships do we have? How many would we say come close to exemplifying the kind of kinship David and Jonathan shared? Is there a lesson here?
But what if we’ve been burned by friendship? Are we exempt?
Perhaps the most beneficial thing to do with this and every other question is to look to God’s Word for our answers, to Jesus Himself for example. If anyone, at any point in history, had a legitimate reason to pull up, to back out, to reconsider laying it all out there, it was Jesus.
When we recall the fact that while we were yet sinners (not loving, nurturing friends) Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), we remember that the mark of true compassion, the sign of true friendship, is grace. He became our covenant on the cross while we were still His enemies!
Amazing love! How can it be?
But it is, and it’s ours to have and to hold and to give away. This love should brand all of our friendships, but particularly those deeper bonds where we have made covenants with one another.
Do we covenant with one another, or do we casually discard our friends in favor of someone else farther down the road? Do we grow tired of one another, forget our solemn oath, neglect any semblance of sacrifice? Do we even notice the signs of friendship falling one by one?
David and Jonathan kept their friendship covenant when their very lives were at stake. Why? Because they promised, and their promises meant something.
I ponder today here at my desk on a spring morning with the wind chimes dancing a tune, the way friendships were nurtured in David and Jonathan’s culture, and how different our world would be if our friendships today were built and cultivated in similar fashion. If when we promised to love, we meant it and it showed. If we were really willing to pay the price for real friendship—and keep on putting the needs and interests of the other first over the long haul.
What would that look like?
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