Man was created a social creature (Genesis 2:18). We need friends. The wise man said, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10).

To have a friend, we must be a friend. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (Proverbs 18:24). There is no better example of friendship in the Bible than the one Jonathan and David shared (1 Samuel 18–23). What kind of person would it take to be a friend of a king? What made Jonathan this special person?

Jonathan Loved David (1 Samuel 18:1, 17).

The first secret ingredient of real friendship is love. Love, in Bible terms, means to seek another’s best interests (1 Corinthians 13:5). Jonathan looked out for David, even when he had to protect him from Saul, Jonathan’s own father.

If I do not love others, I will be without friends. After telling the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus asked the lawyer, “‘Which of these three do you think was neighbor [friend] to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10:36–37).

Paul’s strong language shows this attitude, “I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3). John adds, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

If we love people, we will:

  • help them when they have need assistance (James 1:27; 1 Timothy 5:4, 16).
  • encourage them when they need building up (Romans 14:19).
  • laugh when they laugh (Romans 12:15).
  • cry when they cry (Romans 12:15).
  • listen when they need to talk (James 1:19).
  • tell them they are wrong if they are (Proverbs 27:6; Galatians 2:10–11).

Jonathan Was Generous toward David (1 Samuel 18:4).

Just after David killed Goliath, Saul summoned him to appear before the throne. Because of his bravery, David was immediately given an honorable position. This kept him from returning to his father’s house, so Jonathan gave him the clothes off his back. He lived up to his name, which means, “The Lord gave.” Since God was generous to him, he was freehearted to David.

The New Testament is filled with passages enjoining generosity and unselfishness upon Christians (Romans 15:1–3; 1 Corinthians 10:24; 1 John 4:9–11, 19). “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).

Jonathan Was Trustworthy (1 Samuel 18:3; 19:2).

Even though Jonathan’s own father tried to enlist him to slay David, he would not. He protected David when all others seemed to be against him (1 Samuel 20:3).

We need to be the kind of friend that can be trusted. If we lack this trait, we will lack friends. A real friend says what needs to be said, not just what we want to hear. He does not color the truth. God expects His people to be trustworthy (Matthew 5:34; James 5:12; Ephesians 5:25; 1 Timothy 1:10). True friends will correct their friends and even family members when they go astray—even when they do not listen (Luke 14:26; John 14:6).

Jonathan Could Get Angry (1 Samuel 20:34).

Here is a surprise secret for friendship. When Saul sought David’s life and even tried to kill his own son, Jonathan was in “fierce anger.” We sometimes give friends reason to be mad at us, which may serve to wake us up to the wrong course we have chosen.

The Bible teaches that some things justify anger. Jesus got angry when circumstances justified it (Mark 3:5; John 2:14-17); God is angry with wickedness (Isaiah 5:25); Paul’s anger was stir­red at the sight of idolatry (Acts 17:16–17). We are given this warning: “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).

Jonathan Encouraged David.

The last statement we read about Jonathan before his death is, he “arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). What a marvelous epithet!

We need friends who will encourage us to live for Jesus. There are plenty who discourage, but we need ones who say, “You are doing a good job; we appreciate you; keep on going, things will get better.” God wants us to be encouragers (Acts 11:23; Romans 14:19).

Do you need a friend? Why not try these secrets to friendship? You will find that to have a friend, you must be a friend.

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