I’m currently reading through the Old Testament book 1 Samuel. Much of 1 Samuel tells the story of the rise of David, from boy-shepherd to shepherd-king of Israel. David’s story includes his close friendship with Jonathan.
Chapter 18 says that these two men felt an immediate bond, and that Jonathan, “made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself” (1 Samuel 18:3)
Later, after Jonathan’s death, David lamented the loss of his friend, saying, “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women” (2 Samuel 1:26).
I’m working on a sermon, for this Sunday, on the importance of relationships and restoring broken relationships. While I am not nearly as good at relationships as I could be – as I want to be – I truly believe that there’s nothing more important, more valuable, more beautiful than relationship. Be it marriage, parent-child, friend, co-worker, neighbor, or teammate, people need each other. We were made for relationship.
Mother Theresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”
I’m particularly impressed with David and Jonathan’s friendship.
Someone told me, once, that they thought David and Jonathan must have had a homosexual relationship, as an argument to justify homosexuality biblically. I remember reacting with hostility. Honestly, the idea of David and Jonathan being gay doesn’t bother me (I’m sure someone will react to that statement!). But, I don’t think they were gay – for a number of reasons. For me, that’s not the point. What bothers me is the idea that men who love each other, and openly express their love for one another, must be gay. Why is it so hard to imagine two men feeling closer than brothers, as friends?
It’s interesting to me that at the last supper, John – who refers to himself as the “Disciple Jesus loved” – reclined against Jesus’ chest, sharing physical intimacy with his friend.
Maybe it is just a matter of cultural difference. Maybe Middle Eastern men, at least in biblical times, were more comfortable expressing friendship and intimacy with other men, as friends. After all, the Apostle Paul talks about greeting one another with a holy kiss.
Maybe we’re just less comfortable with that in our culture. Maybe we fear male intimacy. Maybe we fear giving the appearance of homosexuality. Maybe it just doesn’t seem like the macho thing to do. I don’t know.
My point is simply this – I love the idea that David & Jonathan and Jesus & John were close intimate friends. I admire it. I see value in it. I want more of it. I think all of our lives would be richer if we could have it too.
So, to all of my bros out there – thanks for your friendship. To those bros that I love, and you know who you are – I love you! To all of my bros, for whom I haven’t been as good a bro as I could or should – I apologize.
To all of my friends, male and female – I offer you a quote for you from Henri Nouwen,
“Friendship is one of the greatest gifts a human being can receive. It is a bond beyond common goals, common interests, or common histories. It is a bond stronger than sexual union can create, deeper than a shared fate can solidify, and even more intimate than the bonds of marriage or community. Friendship is being with the other in joy and sorrow, even when we cannot increase the joy or decrease the sorrow. It is a unity of souls that gives nobility and sincerity to love. Friendship makes all of life shine brightly.”