After reading 1 Samuel 20, the idea of God-centered friendship struck me. Jonathan, the son of Saul and heir to the throne, and David, anointed by Samuel and chosen by God as the next king, are good friends. These are not two people you’d pick to be close friends. If you were the heir to the throne and someone else was going to get it you might be mad at the person or bitter or envious or plotting to kill him to ensure your desire for the throne. Jonathan does not do that. In fact he loves David and desires that he be king according to the will of God. Now this could be that Jonathan just really likes David a lot. I don’t think so. I think Jonathan does love David as close as a brother (even as his own soul! See 20:17). But the reason he is so willing to give his throne to David is because he knows it’s God’s will and he trusts and loves God so much that the desire of his heart is the revealed will of God. My explanation for Jonathan’s self-denying love and sacrifice is his love and desire for God’s will to be done. This is the only way friendships can remain truly loving – self-denying and at the same time not idolatrous.
David shows a love that is not typical as well. He promises not to kill Jonathan or any of his offspring. Whenever there is a dynasty change, the new king kills all the offspring of the former king lest some try to follow the old king’s family and rebel against the new king. Not David. He is not after self-protection, he loves God and therefore can love his neighbor as he loves himself. So David flees the city with a promise to his friend.
This last point is given by D. A. Carson. I found it really insightful. He says, “But perhaps the most striking thing is that Jonathan stays in town with his father. For the fact of the matter is that we choose our friends, but we do not choose our family; yet our responsibilities to our families take a prior claim. Otherwise friendship itself becomes an excuse for a new form of selfishness” (For the Love of God, vol. 1, August 28). Friendship would be a new form of selfishness if we did not fulfill our familial responsibilities for our friendships? Why? If we neglect our family responsibilities which take prior claim to our friendship responsibilities, and God is the one who chose to put us in our particular families, then we are not obeying and loving God and following the priorities he laid out for us but selfishly choosing our own priorities set by our own desires disregarding what God desires (and requires). It could not be love for the friend because the friend can only truly be loved if God is at the center. If not, the friend is only a person to be used to satisfy one’s selfish and idolatrous desires. And the way one discerns if he is being selfish is if he is neglecting immediate-family responsibilities set by God in order to fulfill his responsibilities to his friend which are lower in God’s ordering of priorities.
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