The Essence of Real Friendship

“Friend” is a common word. It’s almost, at this point in history, a throw away term. We use it to talk about acquaintances, those we have casual relationships with – many whom we’ve never met in person but share some common affinity with and have therefore been paired with on a social networking site. 

But isn’t there more to it than that? Isn’t there a longing inside of us for something more? Better? Deeper? Affinities and common interests are fine – better than fine – they’re great. And fun. And helpful when developing friendships. And yet there has to be something more, doesn’t there?

When we turn to the Bible, we find that something more. Case in point is the description of two friends found in 1 Samuel: 

“Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as much as himself. Then Jonathan removed the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his military tunic, his sword, his bow, and his belt” (1 Sam. 18:3-4).

There’s something more there, though we have to dig for it a bit, for in this relationship we find great depth, sacrifice, and love, one that would stretch even beyond death. David and Jonathan were friends, but that friendship did not come without cost. Jonathan was the heir to the throne of Israel. As Saul’s son, he stood to be next in line as the king, and based on what we know of him, a fine king at that. Remarkably, though, Jonathan befriended David. 

David, the one who was anointed to be the next king. David, the one who would receive what was presumed to belong to Jonathan. David, who might logically be seen as the furthest thing from a friend – a threat.

That friendship meant more than just a casual relationship – it meant that Jonathan was willing to put aside his own self-interests and self-preservation to see his friend become all that God had intended.

In 1 Samuel 18, Jonathan gave David some weighty gifts that symbolized that David, not Jonathan, was God’s choice to become the next king. With these gifts, Jonathan was not only willingly giving over what would have been considered his own rights and privileges; he was truly and freely rejoicing with another even if doing so came at great personal cost. Lest we think this was just a momentary lapse in judgment by Jonathan, he again confirmed his commitment to David in 1 Samuel 20 by helping him escape from the wrath of Jonathan’s father, Saul. In both these instances, Jonathan shows us what it means to truly be a friend to another.

To be a friend means, ultimately, that we want the best for another person. It means we are willing to put aside our selfish ambition and vain conceit and consider another better than ourselves. It means we do not feel threatened by the advancement of another. It means we refuse to use other people for our own gain. This kind of friendship is rare – so rare, in fact, that it only comes through faith.

More specifically, when we truly and deeply believe the gospel.

When we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are free to let go of what we perceive to be our own rights and privileges. We are free to truly rejoice with others and to do all in our power to see them become everything God intends for them to be. We drop the chains of our own insecurity and need for self-justification. We do all this because we believe that God has fully and completely loved and accepted us in Christ, and therefore we can fully and completely love another. Not for what we can get out of it, but because we have all we need in Christ.

This post originally appeared at 

Subscribe to

Never miss a new post. Subscribe to receive these posts in your inbox and to receive information about new discipleship resources.

You have successfully subscribed. Click here to download your bonus.