What’s the definition of a friend? Will your definition match mine? Is a worldly friend different than a Christian friend? Are there good friends and bad friends, or are there only friends and enemies? Are Facebook friends and IRL (in-real-life) friends equally important?
Oswald Chambers offers offers an amazingly clear and concise description of what a friend is in Volume 1 of Men of Integrity:
“A friend is one who makes me do my best.”1
That's a great definition, but I don't believe it's the one most of us apply most often. Many of us might feel more inclined to apply this definition of friend, found on plaques and t-shirts everywhere: “A good friend will com and bail you out of jail...a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, '[man], that was fun!'” Which, of course, implies the exact opposite of Chambers' quote. So, which is it – someone who brings out the best in you or someone who gets in trouble with you?
The Bible tells us about some amazing friendships. Probably one of the best known is the story of Jonathan and David. Jonathan and David first met on the day that David killed Goliath. It seems like Jonathan was a good bit older than David, but David's belief that God was stronger than any old giant really made an imprint on Jonathan. Maybe it was because he felt the same way, I don't know. Maybe he had wanted to go out there and face Goliath, but wasn't allowed to because he was the Crown Prince. Who knows, but from that day on, Jonathan and David were BFFs.
“After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.” I Samuel 18:1-4
Even when Jonathan realized that David was going to take his thrown away from him, he was completely okay with it. Have you ever had a friend like that? Most of us would have a really hard time being friends with someone who was going to take something as important as a kingdom away from us. Can you see yourself in Jonathan's situation?
USA Today writer, Sharon Raboin relates the storie of Esther Kim and Kay Poe, both Olympic hopefuls and best
“For tae kwon do star Esther Kim, age 20, going to the Olympics has been a long-time dream. She came very close to embracing that dream at the Olympic trials, where she was scheduled to fight her best friend, Kay Poe, who was ranked number one in the world.
“But Poe had injured her knee in the semi-finals match and could barely stand up. Obviously Kim could have easily defeated Poe. But she believed such a match-up would hardly be fair. In an instant, she decided to forfeit, automatically sending Poe to the Olympics.
“The moment she made her decision, Kim knew it was right. 'I thought, It's not like I'm going to be throwing my dream away. I'm just going to be handing it over to Kay.'
“Kim's magnanimity was affirmed when she was given the Citizenship Through Sports Award, which recognizes exemplary citizenship, sportsmanship, ethical conduct, and community service. In addition, the International Olympic Committee agreed to pay for her and her father (coach of Kim and Poe) to go to the Sydney Olympics.
“Though some people were critical of her decision, Kim knows she made the right decision. She says, 'Even though I didn't have the gold medal around me, for the first time in my life, I felt like a real champion.'”2
Wow, that's a pretty amazing friendship, isn't it? I'd really have to struggle with something like that. What about you? Especially to do that and then to stay friends afterward. I mean some of us might step aside because we knew it was the right thing to do, but then we'd probably become resentful and ultimately end the friendship. But apparently Kim and Poe have a friendship like Jonathan and David.
Jonathan had the added complication of his father, Saul. Saul might have been what we call today, bi-polar. A few years ago, we called it manic-depression. Whatever it was called, though, it made Saul unpredictable and dangerous. His moods swung wildly between wanting David in the thrown room with him, playing and soothing with his music, and hunting him through the wilderness trying to kill him. In the middle of that chaos stood Jonathan, walking the tight rope of honoring his father, the king, and keeping him from murdering David, the next king.
Do you think you could be a friend like Jonathan? Do you have a friend like Jonathan? Jesus is a friend like Jonathan … even more than Jonathan, really. Jonathan would have, at some point, let David down, but Jesus will never disappoint you and me. Even though we may let Him down, He will never love us any less.
According to christian speaker, Tony Campolo,
“God carries your picture in his wallet.”3
Max Lucado describes Christ's unreasonable friendship with us like this:
“He saw you cast into a river of life you didn't request. He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body that gets sick and a heart that grows weak. He saw you in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you staring into the pit of your own failures and the mouth of your own grave. He saw you in your own garden of Gethsemane and he didn't want you to be alone ... He would rather go to hell for you than to heaven without you.”4
E.G. White describes what He did for us like this:
“Today He [Christ] is making an atonement for us before the Father. 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.' Pointing to the palms of His hands, pierced by the fury and prejudice of wicked men, He says of us, 'I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands' [Isaiah49:16]. The Father bows in recognition of the price paid for humanity,and the angels approach the cross of Calvary with reverence. What a sacrifice is this! Who can fathom it! It will take the whole of eternity for man to understand the plan of redemption. It will open to him line upon line, here a little and there a little.”5
How can we turn away from that kind of love? Jesus is sending you a friend request … will you click 'confirm' or 'ignore'?
1 Oswald Chambers, Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.
2 Sharon Raboin, "Forfeiting Dream Made Kim 'Feel Like Champion,'" USA Today (6-27-00), p.11C
3 Tony Campolo, Christian speaker. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1