In the Old Testament there are two words we translated “friend” or “companion”. A friend is more than just meeting someone on the road and saying “hi.” A friend is a neighbor, an associate, someone we spend time with. Companion is someone we spend our lives with.
The mutual friendship of David and Jonathan is a classic example. Ever since David defeated Goliath, David was in the service of King Saul. David played the harp and comforted Saul who had a bad temper. He was a young man when he started doing this and grew up in the palace with Saul’s son, Jonathan. 1 Sam 18:1 After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. These two are the closest of buddies. Jonathan, many times spares the life of David in defiance of his father Saul. Jonathan stands to inherit the throne but knows that God has rejected his father and given it to David. A true friend is one that can rejoice with you in good fortune. An even greater friend is one that can rejoice with you when your fortune comes at their cost. When Jonathan is killed in battle, David mourns. 2 Sam 1:26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.
Elijah and Elisha form a unique illustration of semiprofessional affection.
Elijah was growing old and he knew that he would have to train someone to take his place as the spiritual leader of Israel. God sent a young man his way named Elisha. II Ki 2:1-2 When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Understand, Elijah is about to die, or be take away. We are in his final hours. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” The beauty of being at peace with another. Neither having to weigh thoughts or measure words. But spilling them out just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.” That is the Christian idea of a friend.
In the New Testament we continue to find this same idea of friend however it becomes more affectionate and even more loving. A “friend” in the New Testament is one that we embrace, that we would lay our life down for, one that we love. When Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss! Luke 22:47 Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” For the soldiers the kiss is a sign of betrayal. For Jesus the kiss is a sign of friendship.
Abraham, because of the intimacy of his relations, was called “the friend of God”. Exod 33:11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. In the New Testament, Jesus and His disciples illustrate the growth of friendship from that of teacher and disciple, lord and servant, to that of friend and friend. Paul and Timothy have a similar friendship.
Dr. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian physician who was imprisoned in one of Hitler’s death camps. Their living and working conditions were deplorable. Everything was inadequate, including medical care. Dr. Frankl offered what little medical help he could to the sick and dying. Over a period of time, he discovered a very unique phenomenon. Those people who kept their strength and sanity the longest were those who tried to be helpful to other prisoners and shared what little they had. Their physical & mental condition seemed to be strengthened by their friendliness, compassion, and focus on something other than themselves.
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them.
The “disciple whom Jesus loved” was a phrase used of John. Our text even reveals that when he writes, “the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
We all understand about being a friend of God, even though we aren’t always a friend. The lesson today invites us to be friends with each other. The strength of the early church wasn’t only that they all believed in Christ, but they were friends. The power of evangelism, isn’t only in the truth, but in friendships.
Life itself is empty without friends. One has to be a friend to have friends. The best way to destroy an enemy is to change him into a friend.
On a Decoration Day parade the ten surviving Civil War veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic would ride in honor. Baker delivered newspapers and wondered why a customer–Mr. Smith–who was the same age as the Civil War vets was not riding in the car with the other vets. He asked his mother. She said, “Well, Mr. Smith was a Confederate. Maybe your grandfather can explain it better than I can.” When he asked his grandfather why Smith did not ride in the parade, he replied: “Because he was a Johnny Reb–he was the enemy.” Baker questioned: “But he is our neighbor. And I like him. Is he still the enemy?” Then he said, “I guess he’s not the enemy anymore. That war ended a long time ago.” Smiling, he added, “I’ll talk to the comrades about inviting your friend to ride with us next year.” The grandfather and his comrades invited the former Confederate soldier to ride with them. Forgiveness means recognizing who our neighbors really are.