“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” Rom. 12:10
I remember once having two friends who were identical twin brothers. They were “attached at the hip” as it were. They did everything together and pretty well liked everything the same. They wore the same things, liked the same food, and enjoyed the same pastimes, even acted the same, but always together. As I watched them interact, I remember being intrigued by them. Even though they would interact well with others, such as myself, and even almost treated me like a brother, it was as if those two were in their own little world at times, where nobody else existed apart from themselves. One thing that really stuck out about them: they were really good to one another. They seemed to be closer than brothers.
I began to think about these twin brothers in the context of scripture and remembered Bible characters who were close like brothers. Other biblical descriptions of friendship that I found included words such as, “chief friends”; having their, “hearts knit together”; and some were called, “near friends”. Some questions came to me: what made these biblical friendships such good examples? What did they do that made them stick out and what made them do it? What was the fruit of these friendships? And, what can we learn about them to make us good brothers as well as good friends?
David and Jonathan
After that famous story of David and Goliath in chapter 17 where David prevails with great salvation of the Lord, we see that Jonathan was very much taken with David. And why not? Everyone loved David for his great victory against the giant Philistine, (I Sam 18:5), which immediately removed the shame of fear of the Philistines from Israel. In fact, the King loved him so much he would not let him go home again; (18:2). The whole army loved him for his courage and the minstrel ladies sang songs about him; (18:6-7). David became an instant war hero; (18:13). He truly was a national sensation. But, we also see Jonathan and David, one of the truly great friendships in the Bible. What proof do the scriptures offer of this? Jonathan did what the Bible says to do to be a good friend. In chapter 18:3-4 we see their covenant friendship and Jonathan’s giving heart:
“Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” I Sam. 18:3-4
You might say he gave him the shirt right off of his back! Here we see sacrificial love in action. Jonathan and David also showed their covenant friendship together in many ways as evidenced by these verses:
He wanted to protect David:
“But Jonathan Saul’s son delighted much in David: and Jonathan told David, saying, Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now therefore, I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide thyself:” I Sam. 19:2
He spoke well of David:
“And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good:” I Sam. 19:4
He set David ahead in preference to himself:
“Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee.” I Sam. 20:4
His allegiance was sworn to David to his own peril:
“And Jonathan said, Far be it from thee: for if I knew certainly that evil were determined by my father to come upon thee, then would not I tell it thee?” I Sam. 20:9
And, David kept his oath promise to Jonathan, that he would honour his house:
“But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the LORD’s oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul.” II Sam. 21:7
This special friendship was a proven friendship. Just imagine, the king’s son giving David all his clothes, speaking well of a man who was the king’s enemy, sworn to provide for and protect an outlaw? Merely contradicting the king could have cost Jonathan his life, especially contradicting a king that already had a proven track record of deep envy for David, his enemy, this beloved warrior, and Jonathan’s friend. Jonathan put his life on the line for David many times. What does the scripture say?
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Prov. 18:24
Adam’s Heavenly Friend
The first occurrence of a friendship I found was with the very first man, Adam. No question, this was a truly one-sided friendship without separation, at first. You will see what I mean. Initially, there was no sin and therefore, nothing to cause a breakdown. God held this friendship together all by himself. In fact, there is no account in the Bible of Adam even speaking personally to God until after he had sinned! Looking at the story in Genesis, we see the sweet relationship that Adam enjoyed from God. God was an excellent friend to Adam. God showed His good friendship to Adam by caring for him and providing all his needs in that beautiful garden. In addition to creating all the earth and all that it contained for his dominion…
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Gen. 1:28;
…God also recognized what was not good for him and provided a wife for him:
“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” Gen. 2:18
God did not forget one single detail for the first man in His creation. However, in return, Adam was not a very good friend to God since he disobeyed His only explicit command not to eat of the tree in the midst of the garden; (Gen. 2:17). Then, the consequence of sin resulting from Adam’s disobedience to this command entered in and the relationship was broken. God’s friendship and blessings could not continue, because they were no longer in spiritual agreement. Amos 3:3 says:
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3
Simply put, God could not be friendly with Adam anymore as He had been before. God had to turn his back on Adam and Adam was removed from God’s garden blessing and forced out on his own. Furthermore, Adam’s dominion over all of God’s creation was taken away from him and given to the devil and then Adam’s hard labour began. You see, God cannot stay near sin. God must separate himself from sin and when God goes, His best blessings go with Him. Understand this: when God does not seem near, guess who moved? Where else do we see this? How did this affect His own dearly beloved and only begotten Son who took upon Himself the sin of the whole world? Consider these verses:
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matt. 27:46
“Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:..” Hab. 1:13a
“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Isa. 59:2
“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matt. 7:23
Can we stop here for a second? Do you see a connection between sin and separation? Could there be a more terrible consequence than separation from God? Think of someone you have a sweet relationship with. What if that could be destroyed? Is there something hidden that may threaten that sweetness? Cast it out, my friend, that you may continue to walk together! It is not worth the sacrifice! So, that is how Adam ruined the sweet friendship and blessing from his heavenly friend. Yes, God was a friend to Adam, but what about God’s friends? Were there any? There was one.
Abraham and God
According to scripture, there was only one whom God deigned to call, “My friend”. Could you just imagine being called God’s friend?
“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” Jas. 2:23.
Abram, or Abraham, was merely a man, an imperfect sinner just like you or I, but yet, he enjoyed this unique privilege of being called, “friend” by the creator of the universe. Why was he called His friend? If we looked at Abraham’s life, it was what He did that made him His friend. First off, the verse above says that Abraham fulfilled scripture by believing God. Could I become God’s friend by believing in Him? Yes, Abraham believed, but also obeyed God without question. Notice the distinction that the devils also believe, and tremble, but they do not obey. When God told him to go, He went and walked in faith even without a destination. That made him a good candidate to be God’s friend. He trusted Him. They communicated together. He talked with God as man to man. And, when he was called upon to sacrifice his only son, (Gen. 22:2), he trusted God without question. Let us consider that for a moment. God, who exists outside of time, saw the obedience of two fathers in the same instant; one man, the father, and one God, The Father, both offering to sacrifice their only sons, Isaac and Jesus, respectively. In that very same instant, God, in His mercy, holds back the hand of His friend while at the same time allowing His own Son to befall His sacrificial fate. It is said that some of the best friendships are born in adversity; talk about a bond of friendship! There could be none greater. Once again, He did it all.
Returning our attention to my example of the twin brothers and their manner toward each other for a moment. Our initial scripture text outlines some pivotal commandments of how to be a good friend and a good brother:
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” Rom. 12:10
In each of these examples, Jonathan and David, and God the Father, with Adam, with Abraham; the command says what we ought to be: “kindly affectioned”. Understanding kindness should be simple enough, it is an unselfish act of giving to another; and affection has the sense of being drawn to another with a zealous attachment, showing and giving loving spiritual fruit to another. Then, the verse says, “with brotherly love”. Take the example again of my childhood friends, the twins, how they were never apart and truly esteemed each other above themselves. It was almost unnatural, heavenly. They knew each other so well and held each others thoughts and feelings in the highest regard. They seemed to always agree together. And, preferring one another? They wanted the better and the best, not for themselves, but for the other. This is total unselfishness to the degree of giving oneself, wholly and completely, to the other without reservation. Not a bad example.
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13
But, here, in this verse, we find an even greater example of friendship at the place of the skull called, Golgotha, at Calvary, where Jesus gave Himself for us so that we could live. What an act of friendship! He did that as an offer for you to choose life. You can, you know? Admit you are a sinner, believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess your need for salvation from sin to Him in prayer, and, the Bible says, “thou shalt be saved”. As for all of us, with that example of friendship in mind, is it not high time for us to set something aside, to make that way clear with a certain brother or friend? …Yes, that one. ~R.
“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
“Let brotherly love continue.” Heb. 13:1