Pastor Eric Schroeder - The Fifth Sunday of Easter - Sunday, May 19, 2019

Text: 1 Samuel 20:12-17

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Some of the best stories are those of unlikely friendships.  A generation or two ago, American television viewers followed the story of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, the “Odd Couple” of men (each of them recently divorced) who wound up sharing an apartment together.  What made it interesting was that Felix was a neat freak, and Oscar was a slob, and the whole show is built around how their personality differences lead to a whole lot of conflict and comical situations. 

Maybe you never watched the Odd Couple…but you probably are familiar with the concept, because you have seen movies like Driving Miss Daisy, or The Fox and the Hound, or E.T., or Finding Nemo.  It’s been almost 25 years since the first Toy Story movie came out, so just about all of us know the unlikely friendship between Woody and Buzz, the sheriff and the space ranger. 

Today in God’s Word, we take a look at the true story of an unlikely friendship that goes back about three thousand years.  It’s the story of a prince and his potential rival who became the best of friends.  Jonathan was the warrior son of a King; David was a shepherd boy.  But after that famous battle between David and Goliath, the King took notice of young David and upgraded his status from an armor carrier to an officer in his army.  David and Jonathan met and soon formed a bond of friendship—the kind that we’d all like to have in life.

But in some ways, young David soon became a victim of his own success.  God blessed everything that David did, so when he went on military campaigns, he won victory after victory in battle.  The more popular David became with the people, however, the more jealous King Saul grew.  The people began to sing songs about David’s heroic feats—and for his efforts, King Saul tried to pin him to the wall with a javelin; David had to run for his life.  Eventually Saul sent his army to chase down David and eliminate his young rival…but by this time David had grown especially close to this unlikely friend—Saul’s son Jonathan. 

Our verses for today pick up when David and Jonathan secretly meet.  David wants to know if he is safe around the King, or if he has to continue hiding, so he finds his friend Jonathan and seeks out the truth.  Listen to what Jonathan says in reply.  12 Then Jonathan said to David: “By the Lord, the God of Israel, I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father is inclined to harm you, may the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away safely. May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father. 

Two things that we want to notice about the friendship Jonathan provides.  The first is this: Jonathan is more concerned about his friend than he is about himself.  He would protect David even it meant that he loses any chance of ever becoming king.  In other words, Jonathan considers the gift of a godly friend as something more valuable than an entire kingdom. 

The second thing we notice is the motivation for Jonathan’s promise.  With these solemn words, Jonathan is affirming that his love for David is built upon God’s plans, not his own.  Another way to say it is that the love of this friendship is built on the love of God; that’s what moves Jonathan to care for, and protect, and defend David rather than just selfishly serve his own interests. 

As the words continue, we hear how the gift of this godly friendship also allows Jonathan to trust that David will do the right thing, too.  14 But show me unfailing kindness like that of the Lord as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, 15 and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

Do you have a friend like Jonathan?  One you can trust in, rely on, depend on no matter what?  One who is unselfish toward you, encouraging when they are with you, and would defend you when you’re not there?  If God has blessed you with that kind of friendship, then by all means be thankful for it.  Don’t take friendship for granted, because the longer you live, the more you’ll realize that true friends are hard to find. 

Some of you might say, “no, I don’t have a friend like that.”  Maybe some of you did at one time, but don’t anymore; perhaps it was distance, or maybe it was death that ended a close friendship.  Maybe you thought you had an unbreakable bond with someone at one time, but you found out the hard way that even friends can disappoint you at the worst possible times.  Maybe some of you look back over your lifetime and just never made a connection quite like David and Jonathan.  If so, you’re not alone.  Researchers are finding that the more ways people have to communicate, the harder it is to actually connect and maintain real relationships.  

Why is true friendship so rare?  Technology isn’t entirely to blame.  No, ever since Adam and Eve, positive human interactions are the exception, not the rule.  Friendship is so rare because selfishness is so common.  Each person that we meet has a heart similar to our own, one that naturally focuses on “me first.”  There is a part of all of us that says if someone can’t make my life better, they aren’t worth my time.  Our default position is to look at others for what I can get from them, instead of what I might be able to give them.  Sin separates people, and it works both ways.

But what we can celebrate the most today is that even though none of us has been a perfect friend, we do all share one perfect friend.  He is first of all our Savior, and then he is also a model for us to follow in friendship.  He gave us the gift of God’s friendship (talk about unlikely…)  by his perfect love in place of our selfishness, and his selfless sacrifice to wash away every sin.  Like Jonathan spoke up in David’s defense, Jesus sits at God’s right hand speaking up in your defense, pleading for your forgiveness because of his own cleansing blood.  Even though he knows you perfectly, he keeps no record of wrongs.  Jesus is patient.  Jesus is kind.  Jesus always protects…always perseveres.  Jesus and his love never fail.  Because of his love he calls you his friend, and now he commands you to love one another in the same way, to follow his example so that others may recognize you as his disciple, and through your love they might know him. 

A godly friend is a wonderful gift to be thankful for.  But today let’s all remember that godly friendship isn’t just something to hope for; it’s something for us to give.  Because we have a friend in Jesus, we can be a friend like Jonathan, as we put others before ourselves, and base every relationship on God’s will, not our own.  And if we ever lack the motivation to be selfless, to make sacrifices, to serve someone else, we have every reason to be renewed in the love of our perfect Savior and friend. 

As you reflect the love of Jesus, where will you start?  Perhaps the best place to start is right where you are—to show a more Christlike love in the relationships you already have: your friends, your family members, your classmates, the people you run into on a regular basis.  We all know that they aren’t always loveable, but neither were you and I—and Jesus loved us anyway with the full extent of his love.  Make it your goal to be patient and kind, forgiving and unselfish in your daily interactions, not because it comes naturally, but because you know the supernatural love that Jesus showed you when he laid down his life for his friends. 

The more you live in Jesus’ love, the more you’ll start looking for people who need it…and you’ll never meet anyone who doesn’t.  Once more, today is a day to celebrate godly friendship, not just in the ones we have, but in all the ways we can reach out with God’s love to others.  May God keep us close to him, that we might be always encouraged to love, because he first loved us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.