Most men like superheroes. We watched the cartoon versions, read comic books, and bought the t-shirts. I was inspired by the latest Marvel movie to look at the foundational stones of manhood from the story of David. David selected five smooth stones before he went into battle with Goliath. In my last article, I introduced courage as the first foundation stone of manhood. The second stone represents loyalty.
Do you have a best friend? A recent study concluded that 60% of men over the age of 30 said they don’t have one best friend or really close friends. The closest friends men had been relationships started when they were under 13 years old. Women, on the other hand, had on average four or five close friends. Maybe men have a higher standard for friendships that includes loyalty.
David showed great courage when he faced and killed Goliath. Afterward, David was included in the court of King Saul, where he met Jonathan, the heir apparent. David and Jonathan became best friends and the Hebrew words in the Bible to describe their friendship translates into English as being “one in spirit” or “inseparable.” (1 Sam 19:1)
Unfortunately, as David grew as a man, King Saul felt threatened that the people wanted David as the new king. Jonathan knew of his father’s jealousy and Saul’s plan to kill David, so he came up with an idea to warn and protect his best friend. The plan was if David were attacked by Saul, he would go hide behind the stone called Ezel (a famous landmark used by travelers and archers as a target).
When the day came, Jonathan would go out to the field and shoot three arrows towards the rock, and miss it intentionally. Then in a voice loud enough for David to hear, Jonathan would tell his arrow retriever (usually a young man) where to find the arrows. If Jonathan said “the arrows are to the side,” it was safe for David to come back. If Jonathan said “the arrows are beyond the rock,” then David needed to flee for his life.
Saul did eventually succumb to paranoia and tried to kill David with a spear. David fled and hid behind the Ezel rock. Jonathan came with his arrow retriever, fired his three arrows over the rock, and told the boy, “the arrows are beyond the rock” or essentially “David run for your life.” Two loyal friends had to say goodbye, but their friendship still defined them as men. (1 Sam. 20:17-30)
The story of David and Jonathan’s friendship show us the three signs of loyalty that is foundational for a man to learn.
1. To be a loyal friend, a man needs to tell the truth.
Jonathan told David the truth of his father’s desire to kill David. Jonathan also stood up to his father and challenged the lies Saul said about David.
2. To be a loyal friend, a man needs to put his friend’s interests above his own.
As long as David lived, Jonathan was less and less likely to be king. Jonathan valued his friendship and being loyal above his desire for fame and power.
3. To be a loyal friend, a man needs to remember and honor his friends with his actions.
In time, King Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, and David did become king. After David became king, he honored Jonathan’s crippled son, Mephibosheth, by giving him all the land and wealth that would have belonged to Jonathan. On top of all that, Mephibosheth was always welcomed at David’s table. (2 Samuel 9:6-7)
I believed that David learned how to be a loyal friend of Jonathan. Men often learn how to be a friend during a time of adversity. Whether men learn how to be a loyal friend while playing on a sports team, serving in the military, or on a mission trip. I like the phrase, “I’ve got your back” to describe the essence of loyalty. A Godly man knows he is stronger by relying on a loyal friend who will listen, support, and tell you the painful truth to protect you.
My challenge to you is to be there for your friends. Be a loyal friend in Christ. Invest and protect that friendship. You will never regret it.
Paul Arnold is a husband, father, grandfather, and currently serves as a chaplain to a senior living facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He hosts several podcasts – Man to Man (career advice for men) and Pardon the Confusion (Sports) that are found on iTunes and www.redcircle.com