Facebook states the average user has 130 Facebook friends. I know people who boast of more than 1000 friends on the social networking site. Some people challenge each other to see who can “friend” the most people. Quantity often trumps quality.
I enjoy and utilize Facebook. Through it I have engaged in theological conversations with people as far away from my native Colorado as Australia. Reconnecting with long lost friends has been rewarding. And social networking sites allow us to keep up-to-date and communicate with many people we would not otherwise be able to. A Daily Bible Conversation is just such a site.
To name each of the 493 people listed on my Facebook page as friends, however, stretches the definition of friendship out of recognition. Many of them are acquaintances or contacts at best. Can anyone really be friends with 1000 people or even 130? I suppose it depends on your definition of friendship.
In today’s reading we see that Jonathan and David’s definition of friendship may challenge many of our modern assumptions about relationships.
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
1 Samuel 20-21:15
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
1 Samuel 20-21:15: We catch a candid glimpse of the life of the court of Israel’s first king. Saul is grooming Jonathan as heir apparent and has given him much authority. But everyone, including Jonathan, knows that God has decreed the crown will go to David. The tension and intrigue are high. David must hide from a murderous Saul, who is hiding his hatred for David from Jonathan. The issue comes to a head at the New Moon Festival which was a festival the first of each month celebrating God’s constant provision. Jonathan and David meet secretly so that David will not be killed and Jonathan cannot be accused of treason by his father.
Knowing how common it was for those aspiring to a throne to kill anyone who may be in the way, it is remarkable that Jonathan does not betray and kill his friend. Rather he preserves his life and ensures he will not inherit the throne.
John 9:1-41: The religious leaders of Jesus’ day rightly see him as a threat to their power. And he is, though not through Jesus wresting their power from them but rather by transforming what it meant to walk with God. Once again Jesus heals on the Sabbath. This is not coincidence. The Sabbath laws were fiercely debated and enforced. Jesus consistently chose to heal on the Sabbath and “disobey” their pet law to prove who he was and to provoke them. Though Jesus was not political in the way we view it today, he did spend a great deal of time and energy working against established religion. This angered the religious leaders.
Today many Christians are tireless in their critique of governments and political parties they view as wrong. I do not necessarily disagree with this. But following Jesus, I believe, also calls us to evaluate and reform the religious establishment in areas it has lost sight of Jesus‘ mission and where it is as confused and oppressive as any government is and as the Pharisees of old were.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Jonathan and David would have scoffed at what many of us today define as friendship, especially the Facebook kind. We shouldn’t castigate ourselves, however. Because we can learn from them. What made their friendship so exceptional?
Close friends often share common interests. More than that, David and Jonathan shared a deep, living faith in God. They made at least three covenants to one another that they based on their common Hebrew faith.
This covenant also shows they were both intentional about their friendship. They did not just meet in a bar and “hang out.” They chose to walk with one another through some very difficult times.
Giving not taking was foundational. Both were willing to give up their promised future crowns for one another. Jonathan gave up his relationship with his father. David refused to fight back against Saul and gave up his safety for Jonathan.
They were incredibly loyal to one another. Jonathan kept his promise even though his father threatened to kill him. And David kept his promise to Jonathan’s family long after Jonathan’s death.
They shared their passions and emotions, and even affection.
They were not utilitarian. They did not use one another. Each loved the other as he loved himself.
Several hundred years later Jesus would say this trait–loving others as oneself–was second only to loving God.
In the end what made their friendship uncommon was that they held their relationship sacred. They knew it was from God, holy, living, life-sustaining, worth sacrificing career, standing, and fame for. They weren’t “just” friends.
According to a 2004 Gallup article the average American has nine “close friends.” I probably could count that many myself. But as I look at what these two ancient warriors had, I have some work to do in order to have many of those go as deep as did Jonathan and David.
- How do you define friendship?
- How many close friends do you have?
- Is there anyone in your life with whom you have a friendship similar to Jonathan and David’s?
- What issues/practices in modern religious life do you believe Jesus would make a point of resisting
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