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May 30, 2021

About 10 years or so ago there was a movie that came out called “I Love You, Man.” The basic premise was this: A man gets engaged and as he and his fiancé are planning their wedding, it becomes painfully obvious to him that he has no idea who he will ask to stand up on the altar with him as his groomsmen since throughout his life he has pretty much ignored building meaningful friendships with other guys. And so the movie is about him painfully and awkwardly and somewhat successfully finding and cultivating a few key friendships, so that by the end he is able to look at his new best friend and say those familiar and heartfelt words of, “I love you, man.” Though the movie was and is first and foremost a comedy, it serves as an insightful cultural analysis as well. Our culture today, and especially so among men, often struggle to form meaningful friendships.

The famous Christian author C.S. Lewis, saw this coming from a mile away, when some 60+ years ago wrote this about friendship: "To the ancients," he said "friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it."

Over the past few weeks we’ve been doing a sermon series on the life of King David, and each week, we’ve effectively been introduced to different key characters that play a role and pass through David’s life. First, there was Samuel, whom this book was named after and responsible for finding and anointing Saul as Israel’s future King. Then there was Goliath, the champion Philistine warrior whom David courageously defeated with a sling and stone. Then there was Saul, the current King of Israel who sees David as a threat and wants to see David killed. And then this morning, we’re introduced to yet another character, this time Jonathan, who comes alongside David as his faithful and loyal friend.

Last week we saw how King Saul became bitter and angry and jealous of David. Here’s David, he’s the new kid on the block, he’s the talk of the town, and Saul wants to see David put to death. And in a surprising twist, David finds an ally at just the right time, from the most unlikeliest of places, in Jonathan, who is of all people Saul’s son.

Overall, the hope for this morning is that as we learn more about David and Jonathan’s friendship from our passage today that we would, in turn, gain a deeper understanding of the characteristics and importance of our friendships today.

Three characteristics of real friendships. And to some extent, they’re all going to overlap with each other.

Here’s the first - Real friendships are covenantal.

One of the first characteristics that we notice about these two is that their friendship is that they are deeply loyal and committed to one another, maybe even especially so Jonathan, as he has more to lose with this friendship (more on this later)

In fact, you may have noticed that word covenant in there, it’s a word that we don’t often use today, but in the bible signifies the deepest kind of relationship any two people can have.

3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.

And at its core, a covenant is the deepest, most intimate, most binding and sacrificial relationship any two people can have, whether it’s in the context of marriage, or with your kids or as our story suggests, even between close friends.

In a covenant, generally speaking, we’re effectively saying to another person, “I will be who I promise to be as long as we both shall live.” “I will be who I promise to be no matter what the future holds.” Maybe the simplest way to put it, is this … In a covenant, you look at the other person and say, “I’m all in.” Period. Full stop.

Now compare and contrast that against consumer or contractual kinds of relationships.

For example, when Callie and I were living in Seattle, I had a relationship with a woman by the name of Mia. Mia was my dry cleaner.

Mia was my dry cleaner because she ironed 10 shirts of mine for $10. And when full disclosure here, it takes me 30 minutes to iron one shirt, I take my business to Mia. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. I give her money, she irons my shirts. We both win.

But here’s the thing. Mia and I both know that at the end of the day, I’m in the relationship for the well pressed shirts. And even more than that, if I were to have found a dry cleaner who could make my shirts look even better, at an even cheaper price, in a location even closer to where I lived, then I’m out. I’m taking my business elsewhere. And that’s okay. Mia and I didn’t make any promises to each other. She never promised to be my loving and faithful dry cleaner and I never promised to be her loving and faithful customer. That would be so weird if we did!

We have and need consumer and contractual type relationships. But we need covenant type relationships too. Relationships where we look at one another and say, “I’m all in. I’m here for you. I’ll be here for you when it’s hard, when it’s costly, I’ll be here for you when the going gets tough.” That’s a covenant.

I wonder if to some extent our friendships sometimes falter or are hindered because we bring consumer like expectations to them, rather than covenant like promises and commitment. Where we effectively come in with expectations such as “I’m all in, but only as long as I’m getting what I want out of the relationship.”

And though it may seem so very countercultural, covenant friendships, friendships with that kind of staying power are ultimately what we need most. And that’s what Jonathan and David had with each other.

And so Jonathan and David make this covenant. For whatever reason, Jonathan feels a strong bond with David, and maybe even senses, after David’s defeat of Goliath, that David is kingly material and is borderline destined to be king someday. In fact, by Jonathan by giving David his robe and armor it may be Jonathan’s way of signaling that as Saul’s son and likely successor he is transferring to David his right to claim the throne. Or it may just be simply a way for Jonathan to signal to David that he’ll be true to his promise, that he’s not just talk, but that he’s even willing to share his prized possessions with him.

Sometimes we express our covenant commitment to another through our words, like Paul Rudd, the lead character in “I love you, man.” Other times we say it through our actions, when we’re there for someone during a difficult season or in a moment of need. Other times we say it through a combination of the two.

For example, have you ever gone above and beyond to help out a friend in need, maybe you help watch their kids when your friend is sick, or you help them move or let them borrow your car or you pick them up from the Bozeman airport. And your friend says to you, “You really didn’t have to” and you say something like “Hey, that’s what friends do.” You would never say it like this, but you might as well be saying, “This is a covenant. And that’s what covenants do.”

The deepest, most meaningful, most life giving friendships are covenantal in nature.

That’s the first characteristic. Here’s the second: Friendships are vulnerable.

David is really starting to feel the heat at this point. He knows without a shadow of the doubt that in Saul’s eyes he is a wanted man, in fact, we saw that in our story last week, Saul tries to kill David with a spear and pin him against the wall. David is running out of options, and has fewer and fewer people he can turn to and trust. And so naturally, having recently made this covenant with Jonathan, says this:

[David] came before Jonathan and said, “What have I done? … And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?” But truly, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death.”

David is baring his soul before Jonathan at this point. And you can imagine the sense of desperation and despair in David’s voice. It’s a reminder that friendship requires vulnerability, friends let friends in.

Now I know were in danger of entering touch feely territory here, but I’m not sure what else to say. This is an essential part of friendship. We don’t simply share our things with our friends – our houses, our cars, our stuff. Nor do we only share our experiences with our friends – whether it be golfing, fishing, shopping, eating, whatever it may be. No, we also share our lives, the highs and lows, ups and downs, the tears and joys, our fears and challenges of life as well, as we get beyond all too comfortable and familiar topics of news, weather and sports.

For example, with many of our friends, when they ask, “How are you doing? How’s your marriage, how are your kids, how’s work going? You’ll give that simple stock response of, “Things are good” even when in reality they’re not good at all. But with your closest friends, you’re actually going to give them the true answer, saying something to the effect of, “Things are really hard at home these days and here’s why.”

Of course, we can’t and we probably shouldn’t have this kind of vulnerability with everyone. It would be not only difficult, but also exhausting. Consider Jesus for a minute. He had 12 close friends, we know them as his disciples, people he spent a ton of time with, traveled with them, taught them, shared meals with them. But yet, look closely and you’ll notice that he had an inner circle of three friends – Peter, James and John – who he was really vulnerable with. In fact, the night before Jesus died, he’s anxious and fearful, sweating bullets and praying to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, and who does he pour his heart out to? Well, it’s the three. Peter, James and John.

Now, the number 3 isn’t so much the point here. It’s not some magic number. Maybe for you it’s 1 or 3 or 5 or whatever. The point is, we need someone, at least one person who we can truly let in. Friendship and vulnerability go hand in hand. In fact, there’s this tender moment at the end of our passage today.

It says: He [David] bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more. It’s admittedly a kind of affection and intimacy of friendship that we’re not very familiar with these days. But imagine that, David and Jonathan were so close, so vulnerable with each other that they cried in front of each other. That’s powerful stuff. Think about how courageous that is – it was not only courageous for David to fight Goliath, it was also courageous, though in a different way to cry on his friend’s shoulder.

Friendships are covenantal, they are vulnerable, here’s the third: they are sacrificial.

Jonathan and David come up with a gameplan. They know, David especially so, that Saul wants to kill him. And so they come up with this plan to help David escape Saul’s wrath and in addition allow Jonathan to test and see just how badly Saul wants to see David killed. And so, here’s part of the backstory that we didn’t read about:

David proposes to intentionally miss a royal dinner, one at which he should be present. He and Jonathan both know that Saul will surely notice his absence. When Saul eventually does notice, the plan is that Jonathan, who would attend this royal dinner will tell his dad, Saul, that David had to be away for personal reasons, to go be with family. If Saul buys the story, then it will be a sign to David that he's safe, but if Saul gets angry, then it will be a sign to David that he truly is the fugitive he believes himself to be and needs to get out of town and get out of town fast.

And so they execute the plan, and when Jonathan tells Saul why David is not present at the dinner, Saul explodes in raging anger, even trying to kill Jonathan himself.

And in this fit of rage, Saul surprisingly says something rather insightful, something that pointed to just how sacrificial and costly Jonathan’s covenant friendship with David would be to him:

Saul said: “For as long as the son of Jesse (David) lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established.”

Notice the dots that Saul is connecting here. Who would be the heir apparent to the royal throne after Saul dies? Who would inherit the kingship in the natural order of things? Well, it’s Jonathan of course, the eldest son of Saul.

You see, if Jonathan’s number one goal is to become king someday, then it would behoove him to join forces with Saul see to it that David is put to death.

But for some crazy reason he doesn’t. Jonathan is ready and willing to give up power and position and status for his friend David. It’s stunning, really.

13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. - Jesus

This is what friends do. They sacrifice for one another. One of the many things I love about this story is that God doesn’t simply just eliminate the problem for David, he doesn’t outright deliver him from this situation, rather he gives him a friend in Jonathan, who will walk through the battle, who will walk through the fire with him. You all, God may not deliver us from the battles we face, but he desires and often providentially puts in front of us people who will walk through the heat of the battle with us.

Let me give you a couple homework assignments if I can. You’ll notice in the pews in front of you many of the pew materials have returned, including encouragement cards. Maybe take one of those cards and write a thank you note to a friend who has been there for you during a difficult season. It could simply be a sentence or two that says, “Thanks for being there for me when times were tough” “Or thanks for letting me share so freely the other day” or “Thanks for always being someone I can count on. Write that note, either using an encouragement card here today, stick it in the offering box in the narthex and we’ll mail that out for you, or send a text or card to that person on your own later this week.

Secondly, maybe do a brief friendship inventory, which sounds weird I know. But maybe take a few minutes this next week to assess your own friendship. Like, if you were to make a list of people in your life you want to prioritize or invest in, who would be that on that list? And then consider, am I investing the time and energy and intentionality necessary to reflect that? Of course, time is a finite resource, and we may feel like there’s never enough time for our friends, and so spouses, you may additionally want to ask, am I freeing up and making space for my spouse to have the friendships that they need, whether it’s by watching the kids so your spouse can go off and do something fun, or whatever else. Ask that question of your spouse and see where the conversation goes.

And I’ll finish with this …

We’ve talked a little about vulnerability, so let me try and be a little vulnerable myself.

For most of my life, I have not found friendships to come easily. I swear, I look around at others sometimes and seem to make it look so easy, they all these friends and so it seems. That has not always been my experience. Maybe that’s why I like the movie, “I love you, man.” I identify with it. And I’m sure I’m not alone on this one.

I know personally I can explain some of it through laziness or selfishness. Sometimes after the end of a long day it’s easier to turn on a show or open up a book rather than make that phone call or get in the car to meet up with someone.

But if I’m really honest with you I know it can also partly be explained through a fear of rejection. That feeling or worry of, “What if they don’t like me or don’t want to be my friend as much as I want to be theirs? Sometimes it just feels easier to have people as more of an acquaintance or casual buddy than true friend.

In the end, I think it’s through Jesus that we can ultimately have the power and strength to be the kind of friend we need to be and therefore have the friends we want to have.

Jesus was seen by many as a friend of sinners.

2 And the Pharisees and agrumbled, saying, b“This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Which means that Jesus wanted to spend time with them, then that means he wants to spend time with you and me too, broken, sinful, insecure and fearful people that we are.

He is the friend of sinners like and you and me. Which doesn’t simply mean that for those who say they have no friends at least have the consolation of a friend in Jesus, though that’s certainly true.

But even more it allows us to step into our relationships with one another from a place of security and confidence. Confidence in knowing that our worth and identity don’t come first and foremost from our friends, but from Jesus himself. And from there we can be more focused on what we able to give in our friendships rather than what we can get.

Friends, if you’re in search of more friends, first look to Jesus, the mighty friend of sinners. Friend of you and me. From there we can be the faithful, vulnerable and sacrificial friends to one another.

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