On Friendship: Be Rather a Friend of God than of Men

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Jonathan, son of the first king of the Jews, always generous in times of difficulty, received the reward of faithful friends.

Newsroom (Sept 19, 2021 6:00 PM, Gaudium Press) The Sacred Scriptures, always wise and just in their descriptions and appreciations, do not fail to attest time and again the virtues and merits of great men of the Old Testament.

Related to the Messiah’s ancestry, countless characters shone for their performance as protectors, cooperators and defenders of the lineage of the God-Man, without actually being part of the blessed lineage.

Jonathan, son of King Saul and distinguished friend of King David, represented true friendship in its highest degree, that is, the willingness to give one’s blood and renounce any and all advantages or benefits in favor of others, without expecting retribution.

Always generous…

As Scripture attests,[1] the son of Israel’s first king was of incomparable courage and audacity, always combined with the most subtle perspicacity. Accompanying his father in the battles against the neighboring peoples of Palestine, his sword more than once determined the salvation and success of the Israelites; nothing would have become of this boldness, however, if it had not always been illuminated by Faith: “Nothing prevents the Lord from giving victory, whether we be many or few”“[2], was what he insistently repeated in difficult hours; the Lord, therefore, assured him of victory.

However, faced with the immense power of the Philistines,[3] which seriously threatened the kingdom of Israel, God chose a young man for a great mission: David, anointed by the prophet Samuel in the name of God, was to replace Saul in the government of the kingdom and exterminate the infidels.

After the humiliating defeat of Goliath, while all the praise and attention was given to young David, Saul’s heart was hardened when he discerned the Providence’s plan for that boy, whom he never again looked upon with favor. In contrast to his progenitor, Jonathan possessed an eminently admiring soul, and in a stroke of insight “clung deeply to David; he loved him as himself.”[4]

However, as a passion is rarely satisfied with what it has, the king’s envy and hatred against the victor of the Philistines grew constantly; to such an extent did these feelings take hold of him that, in the presence of the assembled court, he announced his intention to kill David.[5]

…in the hour of trouble…

“But,” recounts the Scripture, “Jonathan son of Saul loved David deeply,” and fearing that his father would do him some harm “warned him about it.”[6] Even when he was in danger of falling to the king’s doom, he did not hesitate to be faithful to his friend, whatever the cost.

In this terrible perspective the years went by. Always fearing some danger from the king, David and Jonathan lived a long period of anguish, in which nothing was safe except the close bond that united them: persecutions, escapes, reconciliations… Jonathan renounced his privileges and interests in favor of a man on the run and without property, unable to provide him with rewards for his favors; his efforts, in the modern perspective, would be considered really vain.

Extremely fickle, Saul constantly changed his opinion of Goliath’s victor, although he received repeated proofs of his faithfulness from him. David had his enemy’s life in his hands countless times; greater, however, was his love and faithfulness to the kingship instituted by God, which he respected and feared.

…received the reward of faithful friends

The last chapter of the book of Samuel [7] brings the end of this terrible and beautiful story: The Philistines having once again attacked the Israelites, Saul and his troops were unable to restrain them, and so they fled into the hills. When they reached Gelboe, the Jews could no longer resist; the fury of the infidels was unleashed on the king and his sons, who did not survive the attack. Jonathan succumbed fighting valiantly to the end, while Saul, fearful, committed suicide before the enemy?

As soon as David, who had lost the one who had assured him of his life, heard of this, he proclaimed: “Your ornaments, Israel, lie wounded upon your mountains. Alas, the mighty have fallen! How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan was slain on your heights. I weep for you, my brother Jonathan. You were so dear to me.”[8] It was the cry of a torn soul, forced by circumstances to part with a great good.

In the face of fame and glory, it often happens that the fortunate person forgets those who did him the most good, and closes in on himself; but the famous king of Israel was a friend indeed. Knowing that Jonathan had left a son who was lame, he sent for him and said, “Fear not, for I will be merciful to you for Jonathan your father’s sake. I will restore to you all the fields of Saul, and you shall always eat bread from my table.”[9]

And as if this noble – albeit posthumous – gesture of love were not enough, he had Jonathan’s remains collected and solemnly buried, whereby, as a sign of blessing, “God was again propitious to the country.”[10]

Surely, one rarely finds a friendship of this tenor; anachronistic, not only for the time in which it took place, but for the realization that there are no more friends of this disposition. Friendship is forever or it is not friendship; it is an alliance, a commitment that overflows the limits of the grave and of time.

The secret of friendship is, without a doubt, to be rather “God’s friend”, to love exclusively for the design that the Most High has for each one; those who live this way receive the prize of faithful friends: to be in the memory of men and in the heart of God.

By André Luiz Kleina

[1] Cf. 1 Samuel 13, 1-7.

[2] 1 Samuel 14, 6.

[3] pagan people.

[4] 1 Samuel 18, 4.

[5] Cf. 1 Samuel 19, 1.

[6] 1 Samuel 19, 1-2.

[7] 1 Samuel 31.

[8] Cf. 2 Samuel 1, 19-26.

[9] Cf. 2 Samuel 9, 7.

[10] 2 Samuel 21, 14.

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