Recently our pastor gave a message on “True Friendship” and used the example of the friendship that developed between David and Jonathan after Jonathan watched his father Saul’s encounter with David. David told Saul “He [Goliath] has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” (1 Samuel 17:37-38 NLT). Then David slays Goliath with only a slingshot and a stone. Our pastor focused on 1 Samuel 18:1-4 where David and Jonathan’s friendship began. I like how The Message describes 1 Samuel 18:1, as “Soul Friends”:
“By the time David had finished reporting to Saul, Jonathan was deeply impressed with David—an immediate bond forged between them. He became totally committed to David. From that point on, he would be David’s number-one advocate and friend.”
Jonathan and David were perfect examples of an “unlikely friendship.” Jonathan, the wealthy, entitled prince, next in line for the throne, and David, a poor lowly shepherd’s son. What drew these two into a close friendship?
Proverbs 18:24 says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Jonathan was that friend to David and they became mutual covenant friends who always had each other’s backs, even when their own family members were against them.
David’s older brothers, overlooked by God for this feat, chastised him for asking questions about the reward for killing the giant. They called him conceited and prideful. Who did he think he was? (1 Samuel 17:26-28) They told him to go back to his sheep and maybe even said go home and write your poems. The crowd was skeptical of this young shepherd boy who wouldn’t even wear Saul’s armor for the battle.
But Jonathan observed David’s dependence on God and knew they were of one spirit; they shared the same identity and belief in God. Jonathan understood David when no one else did, I see you differently than other people see you.
We often think that friends must have many things in common to be close. Sometimes like-minded Christians don’t venture far away from church or fellow Christians to form friendships. The world sees us as cliquish, especially in today’s divisive culture where differing on politics or faith can mean hostility instead of friendly.
But like Jonathan and David, I do have an unlikely friend who has enriched my life, and I pray I have blessed her life also. My “unlikely friend” was the first to extend the hand of friendship when we moved to Idaho, after living in California my entire life. I knew no one in our new hometown; but she saw me ask questions at a neighborhood meeting and thought, I want to get to know her better. And so she did.
Onlookers heavily scrutinized our friendship because we have significant theological differences. My friend and I have deep discussions about those differences, but they don’t make us too different to remain friends. That’s not our only difference:
- She’s an avid gardener; I hire gardeners.
- She quilts and sews; I don’t even sew buttons back on.
- She’s an artist; I can’t draw stick figures.
- She’s creative; I’m cerebral.
- She reads my books and encourages me; I write.
- She’s retired; I’m still working.
- She likes to go out to lunch; I eat lunch while writing.
- She’s even-tempered and calm; I’m intense and animated.
- She’s older than me; I learn from her wisdom.
After six years, my unlikely friendship is closer than any friendship I’ve made here. We consider each other sisters and friends of the heart.
Because we were able to look beyond the initial naysayers and critics to our friendship, we’ve experienced unexpected blessings. Here are just a few that might encourage you to reach across the aisle, as the politicians like to say. It could be the political aisle, church aisle, age or generation gap aisle, race aisle, income aisle, or work aisle... and form your own unlikely friendship.
Experiencing things out of our comfort zone. We can get into a rut where all our friends like to do the same things and we never try anything new. It’s comfortable staying with the known, but it’s challenging and fun to expand into the unknown with a friend.
Learning to see people beyond how they differ from you. It’s refreshing to return to your sweet early childhood days when we made friends just because we liked them and they liked us—not because of how we looked, what church our families attended, how much money either family had, the size of our houses, or even what neighborhood we lived in. It didn’t matter then! It shouldn’t matter now!
Applying the true meaning of loving your neighbor. We know that Jesus sees everyone the same and died for all people to have the opportunity of salvation, but sometimes we Christians don’t look at people with that openness when making friends.
Sharing ideas, perspectives, and conversations, you might never have experienced. Expanding our horizons to have honest debate and consider someone else’s perspective is almost a lost art today. I’ve heard politicians say they have friends in the other party and can have heated debates in chambers, but they enjoy their “unlikely friendship” outside the chambers. We need to get back to those kinds of friendships in social media and personally.
Knowing someone has your back in circles you might not participate in. Your unlikely friend might not associate with the same people you do, but you each defend the other one regardless of the circumstances.
Being kind, loyal, and loving to someone not because of any ulterior motive to change them, but just because you like them. There’s always the temptation to try and change an unlikely friend to be more like you—think like you, act like you, believe like you—just not be so unlikely. When you do that, you lose the blessing of loving them just how they are. Maybe God will change them in places He wants, maybe He’ll change you, and maybe that’s why He put you together. But let Him be God and you be a true and loyal friend.
Unlikely friends are all around us. Like Jonathan and my unlikely friend, we just need to notice those we’d like to get to know better... and go meet them!
Janet Thompson, an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 19 booksincluding her latest Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness releasing 9/12/17.
Additional books: Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, The Team That Jesus Built, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, Dear God They Say It’s Cancer, Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter, the Face-to-Face Bible study Series, and Woman to Woman Mentoring Resources. She isalsothe founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Visit Janet at: womantowomanmentoring.com.