“I grieve for you, Jonathan, my brother. You were such a friend to me. Your love for me was more wondrous than the love of women.”
2 Samuel 1:26 CSB
In our world today, it would be a little unusual for a straight man to talk about a friendship with another man the way David talks about his friendship with Jonathan. It’s hard to imagine two guys at church giving each other a bro hug and saying, “Dude, I love you more than women!”
But let’s not look at this with our modern eyes. In earlier days, it wasn’t at all weird for men to describe their friendship in this way. I read a lot of history, and in two recent reads (Doris Kearns Godwin’s Team of Rivals and Jon Meacham’ Thomas Jefferson and the Art of Power) there are excerpts of letters from Lincoln and Jefferson to their male friends, and they are filled with the same kind of brotherly affection David had for Jonathan. Even into the 20th century, you can read the stories of soldiers who went through war together, such as Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers and realize that it is possible to forge deep, deep friendships with a your brothers in arms. So men, there is no need to get squeamish and awkward with this passage.
And for the love of God’s Word, don’t take passages like this and try to advance your own agenda and claim they prove something they don’t prove. You know who you are.
In the notes on 2 Samuel 1:26 from the Spurgeon Study Bible, Spurgeon flips my perspective on David and Jonathan’s friendship. He writes:
When we read a story like that of Jonathan and David, should it not stir up in us the desire not so much to have such a friend as to be such a friend as Jonathan was to David? Anyone can selfishly desire to have a Jonathan, but he is on the right track who desires to find a David to whom he can be a Jonathan.Spurgeon Study Bible, p. 387
It is not so different from the advice I heard from my mom on the first day of school: “If you want to have a friend, be a friend.”
I am talking primarily to my brothers in Christ, because I think our sisters understand this better than we do. We tend to be transactional in our friendships. We seek out those relationships that can be useful to us. Case in point: men often talk about their “network” of friends. Women tend to talk about their “circle.”
But instead of thinking about what this man has to offer, ask what you have to give.
May that blessed Spirit of God, who teaches us to love even our enemies, help us cultivate sanctified friendships and be willing to help those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ in time of need.
Preach, Chuck! Preach!
I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.