The following is the transcript from the June 5, 2016 service at Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa.
Actually, none of this is new. Tour historical 19th and 20th century homes and you’ll often find a place designed with men in mind: wood-paneled billiard rooms, hunting retreats, drawing rooms where men could smoke cigars and drink scotch.
We want and need male relationships, male friendships, male bonding.
But here’s the problem. Men are growing increasingly isolated from each other.
And that’s not good, because men need other men. We need other men for accountability and challenge. In fact, the Bible talks about the role of other men in your life as iron sharpening iron. We need other men so that we can talk about areas of life that you just don’t want to talk about with a woman.
And I don’t just mean sports. But issues related to sex and sexuality; temptation and desire; and perhaps most of all, weakness.
So why aren’t these relationships happening? Well, let’s see if we can get on the solution side of this, and look at what it means for a man to draw near to another man. And we’ll do it by looking at one of the most intimate male friendships in the Bible – the friendship between a man named David, and a man named Jonathan.
Jonathan was the son of the King – a man by the name of King Saul.
David killed Goliath, and instantly became elevated in the eyes of Saul, as well as the people of Israel. But it wouldn't be a good relationship for very long, because Saul became very jealous and threatened by David.
Saul tried to kill David, repeatedly, eventually forcing David to flee for his life. But in the midst of that was the relationship between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan. And it was a very special relationship.
Notice how the Bible describes it:
"...Jonathan became one in spirit with David and he loved him as himself" (I Samuel 18:1, NIV).
From the minute they met, they connected, and became life-long, intimate friends. But it was more than chemistry. For a man to have a real friendship with another man takes intentionality and investment – and in the case of Jonathan and David, that meant three things.
It begins with something as simple as giving:
"And Jonathan made a special vow to be David’s friend, and he sealed the pact by giving him his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt" (I Samuel 18:3-4, NLT).
Now that's significant, because those things were symbolic of Jonathan's role in David's life - that he would be under him, for him, in service to him.
Even to the point of seeing David as the future king, instead of himself - even when he was the King's son and rightful heir!
And that giving spirit, that giving attitude was all through their relationship.
Now, when we think about giving, we instantly turn to giving in a material or tangible sense - like giving someone resources, or money, or even time.
He gave David the greatest relational gift imaginable: priority. His goal was to promote David, help David, to make David a success.
And that included the gift of encouragement. The word "encourage" means to "put courage in"; to help someone stand tall, to weather a storm, to survive emotionally.
That bred a deep commitment and intimacy that could not have been forged on any other anvil. Because it reflected the heart of what giving is all about: selflessness.
Men often look to other men as either competitors, or as contacts. But that's when I am reminded what friendship is really about – which is being the one who gives.
Not only is a true friendship between men marked by giving, it’s marked by loyalty.
Take a look at how this played out with David and Jonathan:
"Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him." (I Samuel 19:1, NIV).
Here was Jonathan, part of the royal court, first in line for the throne, and the number one threat to his ascendancy was David. And in spite of all of that external pressure, Jonathan was loyal - he stayed true to David. And not only that, became his advocate, even to his father:
Take a look at the next verse:
"Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father" (I Samuel 19:4, NIV).
Someone who is loyal is someone who is your champion, your supporter, and your defender, no matter what the situation. They’re not a fair-weather friend, or subject to changing their tune depending on who they talk to, or what situation they're in. A friend has your back.
That's why the Bible says in Proverbs 17:17 that:
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17, NIV).
You know, we’re so used to tearing other people down – even people we’re in relationship with. And we’ve become cynical – we don’t stick our neck for anyone; particularly if it will cost us anything in terms of our own reputation, our own advancement, our own place in the order of things.
But that’s not what loyalty is – loyalty is when we need to stand up for someone – when we protect, believe the best, give the benefit of the doubt, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them.
A third mark of true friendship between men is safety.
A safe person is someone who is just that - safe. They can be trusted, they are accepting and supportive. They are folks that let us love and be loved, know and be known - and we can experience that with them without being wounded in the process.
We all want and need safe people in our life. But here's the rub: many of us have invested ourselves into relationships with folks who, it turned out, were anything BUT safe. We were abandoned, taken advantage of, betrayed, misunderstood, or attacked.
And even if we haven't experienced that first hand, we've been led to believe it's inevitable. So we just harden ourselves, lock up our inner worlds, and throw away the key. Nobody gets in, because when they do, it just means pain. So we build the walls. Shut the doors. Batten down the hatches. You get this "I will not be hurt again" mentality.
And then you start going through life emotionally detached. People can get close, but not too close. And while that may keep you from being hurt by people, it doesn't keep you from hurting. Because, if, there is any pain worse than being hurt through a relationship, it's shutting yourself off from relationships, and suffering the pain that comes from isolation and loneliness.
We have to grow in this thing called safety. Because it marks every truly intimate relationship - and for a taste of what it involved for Jonathan and David, look at this next passage:
Once again, Saul was after David, and it got to the point that David couldn't take it anymore. He had to find someone that he could just vomit out all of his stuff to, and not have to qualify it so that it would sound all nice and spiritual.
And he did it with Jonathan - take a look:
"Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, 'What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father that he is trying to take my life?' (I Samuel 20:1, NIV).
Do you know where we get the word “vulnerable?” It’s from a Latin word that means “able to be wounded." And Jonathan proved himself safe.
When David was finished, he said, "its okay - let me go to my father and find out what's going on - if you are truly in danger, I'll come back and warn you, and you'll know to flee."
And it turned out David was in danger, and Jonathan was true to his word and warned him. And then, after he had been warned, and David was about to go, the Bible records a very tender scene that evidenced how overwhelmed David was by the depth of his friendship with this man.
Look at verse 41:
"And then they kissed one another and wept, friend over friend" (I Samuel 20:41, MSG).
Here were two guys who loved each other as brothers, and had reached a level of intimacy were there was no doubt that they were absolutely, unequivocally, safe to each other. Jonathan was safe to David in letting David be real; in letting him let his hair down, share his feelings, and reveal his emotions.
And then when he held all of that in his hand, when David was able to be wounded, he wasn't.
So that’s what a friend, and a friendship, looks like....Giving, Loyal, Safe