David and Jonathan had many reasons to become jealous foes. Because, if they started arguing about who was “the greatest,” each man had much to boast about.
Jonathan was the son of a king—King Saul! And Jonathan had routed an entire Philistine army by scaling a cliff with his armor-bearer.
David was secretly anointed with oil by Samuel, signifying that David would be the next king of Israel, after Saul died. And David had routed an entire Philistine army by killing their best warrior, Goliath.
Furthermore, jealousy came naturally to Jonathan’s father, King Saul. He became “very angry” when he heard women singing: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David [has slain] his tens of thousands.” “And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” (1 Samuel 18:6-9).
Not only was aging Saul jealous of David’s popularity with women. Saul was worried that his dynasty would never be established as long as David lived (1 Samuel 18:8; 20:31). Perhaps Saul’s fears were merely based on the paranoia that makes all tyrants fear that someone is plotting to overthrow them. But perhaps his fears were fed by rumors that Samuel had secretly anointed David to be the next king.
Despite all these reasons to compete with each other, to hate each other, to fear each other, and to fight each other, David and Jonathan became best friends. As the Bible puts it, “Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as he loved himself” (1 Samuel 18:1; 20:17).
When Jonathan realized that his father was trying to kill David, Jonathan disobeyed his father. Jonathan risked his life to save David from King Saul’s schemes (1 Samuel 19 & 20). Jonathan was even willing to give up his claim to the throne for his best friend, David (1 Samuel 23:15-18). Jonathan pledged eternal friendship (1 Samuel 20:41-42). Jonathan looked forward to the day when David would be king. Jonathan would stand by David’s side—his best friend and supporter (1 Samuel 23:17-18).
By their willingness to become best friends—despite so many reasons to become enemies—David and Jonathan set a perfect example for followers of Jesus and, indeed, for all Humanity. We should be best friends even if we have reasons to be enemies.
As Jesus taught his followers, we are not to argue about who is the greatest (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48). Instead, we are to be servants to each other (Matthew 20:26-27), washing each other’s feet (John 13:3-17). We are to live in “complete unity” so that all Humanity will know that our Heavenly Father sent Jesus to us and loves us (John 17:22-23).
In short, followers of Jesus—and, indeed, all Humanity—should be best friends.
Unfortunately, many followers of Jesus—and certainly all Humanity—have fallen far short of behaving like best friends. Their jealousy can surface in something as petty as who gets to sing the solo in church. Or their jealousy can surface in something as devastating as wars against other followers of Jesus to prove who is “the greatest.”
Therefore, Ancient Israel’s greatest warriors, Jonathan and David, not only show us how to be strong and courageous when battling evil—when overcoming Darkness. Jonathan and David also show us how to love each other as Jesus loves us—spreading Light.
Jonathan and David show us how to be best friends by loving each other—even if it means being strong enough to overcome our jealousy of our friend’s success.
Jonathan and David show us how to be best friends by loving each other—even if it means being courageous enough to overcome our fear that our friend will become our enemy.
Jonathan and David show us how to be best friends by helping each other—even if it means being strong enough to do something as unpleasant and humiliating as washing our friend’s feet.
Jonathan and David show us how to be best friends by saving each other—even if it means being courageous enough to do something as painful and sacrificial as dying on a cross for our friend.
This blog is based on pages 33-34 of my book, Healing the Promised Land.