* Parents and grandparents, if you do not know what BFF stands for, ask your young people.
Friendship is a good gift from God. God wired us for friendship. In the beginning God said it is not good for man to be alone. While this relates directly to the creation of Eve and the beauty of marriage, it also says that man was created with a need for friendship. We were not created to live in isolation. God has a purpose for friendship—that we grow in knowledge, faith, godliness, and holiness. Do you have a good, godly friend? Are you part of a group of friends who love the Lord? If you are, give thanks to God and continue to grow in these friendships. If you are not, I encourage you to seek for and develop such relationships.
To answer the questions above we need to know what good, godly friendship is. Just like all other biblical truth, a biblical understanding of friendship is under attack. One of the dangers that threatens our understanding of friendship is Facebook “friends.” Before you stop reading because I appear to be another Facebook-bashing adult who does not know anything about it because I do not use it, please keep reading (it is true that I do not have a Facebook account, but not because I believe Facebook is evil). The danger of Facebook is that we allow it to redefine and devalue friendship. Many who are simply acquaintances are called “friends” on Facebook. On Facebook, quantity of friends (how many do you have?) could be seen as better than closeness and quality of friendships. Friendship can become very self-centered, as a person may write about self while showing little genuine concern for others. These wrong perspectives of friendship do not originate with Facebook. We all fight them, whether or not we are on Facebook. But Facebook provides a place where these wrong ideas of friendship are promoted. I am not telling you all to cancel your Facebook accounts, but I want you to be aware of the danger that we view friendship differently because of social media websites. Instead, may our starting point for understanding good friendships be the Scriptures and not social media.
The starting point of a Christian understanding of friendship is God’s covenant, because being a Christian is being in a relationship of friendship with God. Friendship with God in Jesus Christ is the essence of God’s covenant. Friendship also describes our relationship with Christ Jesus, because He calls us His friends in John 15:14. Because we together are the friend servants of the living God, we must develop Christian friendships with each other. What does this friendship look like?
Scripture gives a beautiful example of friendship in the relationship of David and Jonathan. A lasting, God-honoring friendship developed between them. Before this friendship developed, you can imagine that Jonathan felt very alone because of the sin and ungodliness in the home of his father, Saul. Jonathan was a young man who loved and trusted in the Lord, which is evident from the time he fought against the Philistines with only his armor bearer. Assured that God would deliver them, the two of them launched an attack upon a Philistine unit that resulted in twenty dead Philistines ().
Jonathan must have felt very alone until David called out to the giant, Goliath, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts . . . . This day the Lord will deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee . . . . And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands” (). Assured that God would give him the victory, David slung a stone that nailed Goliath between the eyes. You know the rest of the story.
Can you imagine the joy in Jonathan’s soul when he heard David say these words to the Philistine giant? In David, Jonathan found a friend—another whose heart was in tune with his. This is what we read in the next chapter: “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (). The idea here is that the soul of Jonathan bound itself to the soul of David. This describes the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Jonathan and David. From this relationship we learn that true friendship includes the following elements: spiritual oneness, love, loyalty, and encouragement.
True friendship develops where there is spiritual oneness. Jonathan and David viewed life from the same divine perspective. They both believed the sovereignty of God—He is the God who does what He pleases. He is a God to be trusted. They believed that Jehovah God saved them by grace alone. They desired to live their lives for His glory. When Jonathan saw this same perspective in David, his soul clung to David’s. They were both young men who loved the Lord.
This is the way it works with deep, lasting friendships. Friends do not think alike on everything. Often it is the opposite. They do not like the same foods, teams, or hobbies. But good Christian friends share the same truth of God, worldview, and approach to life. This is why a Christian’s trying to be friends with the world does not work. This is why Christian friendship is so much better than anything that exists between unbelievers. True friendship is based on a supernatural oneness of the soul. This oneness is something God creates by His Spirit within our hearts. True friends know the same God, assent to the same authority, walk the same way spiritually, long for the same things, and desire to worship and glorify God in all of life. If you have such a friendship, you have a treasure of greatest value. This is the kind of friendship you should seek. When you understand this about friendship, so many more possibilities for friends can be found at school, at a convention, and in your local congregation. I can remember being part of a small congregation when I was in high school. There were very few in the church who were my age. But I had many friends to talk to after church, and some of them were 70 years old.
Spiritual oneness will lead to love, which is what the next phrase insays: “And Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” This is an amazing statement. This love did not develop in a month or in a year or even in a day, but in a moment. Jonathan was thrilled to find someone who loved the Lord and viewed life like he did. He loved David and David loved him. What an encouragement to those who want such a friendship but feel very alone. Watch for those who love the Lord and seek friendship with them.
Notice how Jonathan expressed this love to David in—“Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of his robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” Remember that Jonathan was a prince and David was a lowly shepherd. But Jonathan stands humbly in his undergarment while the shepherd boy wears the prince’s robe and weapons. Jonathan’s gesture placed David side-by-side with him. Jonathan honored his friend and esteemed him better than himself ( ).
We see in Jonathan’s humble, selfless act, the true love of friendship. Friendship is not about what I get out of it or what others can do for me to make me feel good. The deepest friendships have a common desire to make the other person royalty. A true friend works for and rejoices in the elevation and achievements of the other. Love in friendship has no desire to manipulate or control. There is no jealousy or exclusiveness in friendship, wanting only that person to oneself. Love desires the best for the other. This love in friendship is the selfless love of Jesus Christ Himself. This is the love He has shown to us, making us His friends by dying on the cross.
As their friendship grew, Jonathan maintained a fierce loyalty to David. This was remarkable because as long as David lived Jonathan could not be king. Saul, Jonathan’s father, reminded him of this (). Yet, Jonathan spoke well of David. On one occasion, Jonathan even persuaded his father to take an oath not to harm David (an oath that Saul did not keep).
Are you loyal to your friends? Many friendships do not last because of what one “friend” says about another “friend” to someone else. This report gets back to the “friend” and it hurts. In other friendships, loyalty is mistaken to mean that one friend will not rebuke another for sin. In other cases, loyalty is mistaken as preserving secrets of sinful behavior. Loyalty in friendship means speaking well of your friend and not forsaking when your friend walks in sin, but helping your friend overcome that sin without joining in sin.
Friends encourage each other. When David was disheartened, hurting, and discouraged, Jonathan went to David to encourage him. We read in, “And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David in the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” What a friend Jonathan was, for “a friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” ( ). The encouragement Jonathan gave was more than “everything will be okay.” Jonathan pointed David to God—he “strengthened his hand in God.” Jonathan brought the truth of God to David and prayed with him. They were comfortable talking about God, the truth of His word, and what it meant for their lives.
This is the good encouragement that friends give to each other. When your friend is going through a hard time, do you think about what God wants you to say at that moment? Do you think about what truth of God will help your friend? God sends adversity for us to grow in faith and godliness. Good friends remind each other of this truth. Because true friends see things from the same godly perspective, they remind each other of that perspective. When your friend wants to turn to shopping, drugs, or alcohol for comfort, a good friend says, “Let’s pray to God for help.” When have you last prayed with your friend or for your friends?
David and Jonathan’s friendship shows us what a deep, lasting friendship can and ought to be. It reveals the beauties of a friendship grounded in God and His Word. Instead of using “BFF” (how can you have more than one anyway?), as those who know true friendship in God’s covenant we could use “GFF”—Godly Friends Forever. May we not settle for what we have in our friendships, but may they ever rise higher to be what God calls them to be in His Word.