I was crushing on my best friend’s ex-boyfriend. It was high school. I had no idea it was against the rules.
I hate the way she talks to me. It’s as if she thinks I’m not as smart as she is.
I don’t know why we’re friends. We have nothing in common.
Can you relate to any of these scenarios? Maybe it happened to you in high school. Or at church. There’s a lot of talk about toxic people and why you should avoid them. But how do you know what makes a good friend anyway?
When talking about friendship there’s no better biblical example than that of Jonathan and David (ha! I bet you thought I was going to say Jesus didn’t you? Well Jesus takes friendship to a whole ‘nother level. There aren’t many people willing to die for you.)
The story of Jonathan and David starts in I Samuel 18:1 and kind of rolls through to I Samuel 20:41. At their first meeting we are told that ‘the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David’ and that Jonathan loved David as ‘his own soul’. In Jamaican terminology ‘him spirit tek him’. But what is it that made Jonathan such a good friend to David? Here are five traits that he had:
1. A good friend lets you know when somebody means you harm (I Samuel 19:2).
Have you ever been in a situation where someone disliked you for whatever reason or was saying horrible things about you? How did you find out? Did you have a friend who told you what people were saying about you? Or what they are planning to do to you? Or did you just wander blindly into whatever emotional trap was being set for you?
When Jonathan found out that Saul wanted to kill David, he was up front about it (I Samuel 19:2). This must have been one of the most awkward conversations in the history of awkward conversations:
“Ah, bro… you need to get away from here.” says Jonathan
“Um. No! I like it here. I’m in the army. The king let me marry his daughter … we started off a little sticky but I think we’re okay now.” replies David. “Did I tell you I’m still on my honeymoon?”
“Eww, that’s my sister. Well, anyways, my dad wants to kill you.”
“Wait, what? I thought he was over that.”
2. Good friends speak well of you (I Samuel 19:4-5).
When I was younger I didn’t have a lot of friends. As a person who spent a lot of time with my nose in a book, I wasn’t such a popular choice when it came to playing games with the neighborhood kids. I also knew enough to know that the way they talked about me when they thought I wasn’t around was a pretty good indicator that they weren’t really fond of me.
A good friend – a really good one – speaks well of you even when you aren’t there. They see you in a way that highlights all your good points. They recognize that the things you’re not so proud of are learning opportunities and they give you grace – lots and lots of grace. They allow you the opportunity to grow and a lot of time they are in the trenches with you – struggling to get the things you’re struggling with because they care.
3. A true friend can be counted on (I Samuel 20:4).
There’s a slightly off-color Groucho Marx quote that I think embodies this trait: “When you're in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, 'D--- that was fun'.”
David had such a friend in Jonathan. Even though the ‘enemy’ was his own father, Jonathan was willing to try to stand in the gap between David and Saul.
4. A true pal is not envious of you (I Samuel 20:30).
I love watching teen movies but whenever there’s a really popular group of girls there seems to be thread of envy that runs through the group. Typically, the leader of the group keeps everyone in place by reminding them that she is far superior in every way and they should be lucky that she allows them to talk to her. Her popularity is maintained because there’s a great deal of envy directed towards her. Everybody wants to be her so they do anything to stay on her good side.
This wasn’t the case with Jonathan and David. As the son of a king, Jonathan should have been next in line for the throne but God had already chosen David as the next king.
Saul knew about it and so did Jonathan yet he had no envy towards his friend. Like Saul, Jonathan should have been plotting and scheming to get David killed. Instead he wanted to preserve his life knowing that it meant all the wealth and power of his father would never be his.
5. A friend mourns when you mourn (I Samuel 20:41).
There’s nothing worse than going through heartache alone. As social beings we handle situations better when we have someone there with us. A ‘bonafide brethren’ is there not only when things are happy but also when they are sad. Because they know and care about us, they are affected by the things that make us sad.
When David had to deal with the fact that he would have to leave his home, his family and his friends, he was deeply distressed. So was Jonathan. Did they know they would never see each other again? Probably not. What they knew was that there was a long separation ahead as they would not be able to see each other as long as Saul wanted David dead or until Saul died.
Do you have a friend like that? Are you a friend like that to someone? There ought to be someone that you can call on when things get a little rough. People need people. Women need other women, a girlfriend that they can call at 2:00 in the morning and say, “Please apologize to your husband but I need you.”
Now that we know what the qualities of a true friend are, here’s one trait that you don’t need in a friend:
A good friend does not lead you into destruction.
In Proverbs 1:10-19 (NLT) we read:
child, if sinners entice you,
turn your back on them!
They may say, “Come and join us.
Let’s hide and kill someone!
Just for fun, let’s ambush the innocent!
Let’s swallow them alive, like the grave;
let’s swallow them whole, like those who go down to the pit of death.
Think of the great things we’ll get!
We’ll fill our houses with all the stuff we take.
Come, throw in your lot with us;
we’ll all share the loot.”
child, don’t go along with them!
Stay far away from their paths.
They rush to commit evil deeds.
They hurry to commit murder.
If a bird sees a trap being set,
it knows to stay away.
But these people set an ambush for themselves;
they are trying to get themselves killed.
Such is the fate of all who are greedy for money;
it robs them of life.
Raise your hand if you have ever had a friend that your parent told you was “bad company”? Oh was it just me then?
This passage in Proverbs gives a pretty good idea of how it happened. So maybe the “bad friend” doesn’t say, “Come let’s go rob and kill.” It could be as simple as, “Let’s take something that doesn’t belong to us.” Or, “Let’s say something is true when it isn’t.”
We are told to stay far away from these people because they are headed for destruction and if we go along for the ride – we will be destroyed as well.
What do you think are the traits of a good friend? Share them in the comments below.