In Defence Of Deep Friendships
Our cultural depth has wrecked havoc on friendships. I suspect we are now far more proficient at acquiring acquaintances or ‘social connections’ than we are at forging the type of friendship seen in 1 Samuel 18.
By my own observation in pastoral ministry, men are wilting under the scourge of loneliness. I sit and hear men pouring out their longing for a friend—more than a friend—a brother. Yet our capitulation to cultural tides has robbed us of the strategies required to build these deep relationships. I listen intently, nodding my head as hardened men blink back tears while internally aching with the same type of longing. We watch movies of men who fight shoulder to shoulder through some great conflict, or endure some great catastrophe while leaning on each other, and our heart cries out for that same brotherhood. Or, surrounded by wife and family, we feel guilty that there is a deep expression of friendship that can’t be met completely, even in the gift of marriage. Men need friends.
We need a friend that shares more than just a passing interest in a mutual hobby. We need a friend that is more than just a person who makes mutual hours at work more tolerable. We need a friend who we’ll talk with even though we don’t need to ask them a favour. We need a friend who isn’t someone we feel compelled to impress. We simply need a friend.
I love that David and Jonathan’s friendship was described as being as two souls knit together, “…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” — 1 Samuel 18:1. Men need that type of platonic depth. In fact, I would argue that even the most macho guy inwardly longs for a brother-in-arms like David had in Jonathan. Our culture assails this depth of friendship with either open contempt, or by falsely defining that type of intimacy. Yet here we are, followers of the Son of Man who, as the writer of Proverbs tells us, will ‘stick closer than a brother’ (Proverbs 18:24). Or, as Peter exhorts men and women alike, “Above all, love each other deeply…” (1 Peter 4:8). We need good friends. But where do we begin?
Maybe we go back to the playground. Maybe it just takes a bit of childish inhibition. “Do you want to be my friend?” I know, it sounds a tad infantile and simplistic, but maybe we find it safe to hide behind that excuse. Maybe it’s safer just to sit on the seat, because at least we can’t be told, “No”. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting for someone to come ask you to play, and for you to look around and see who is lonely just like you are. Maybe you’ll find pews full of guys who want a friend just as bad as you do. Be brave. Take the initiative. Ask first. Make a friend.
If you’re married, talk to your wife about it. You will most likely discover she already knows you need a friend, and will be supportive in creating space in your life for the friendship to grow in.
Invest in friendship in more significant ways than the default bowl of crisps and a cold can while watching the game. It’s not wrong to enjoy that, but that won’t knit souls together. Commit to regular prayer for each other. Create space to study the Scriptures together. Travel together to hear good ministry. Serve together. Dare I say, if needs be, weep together.
It might take a while to build a friendship like that, but in the meantime, be that friend to others. Make a point of studying the ‘one another’ commands of the New Testament, then pick a few guys you already know to some degree and then see how well you can practice them. Speak highly of guys with integrity—they’ll appreciate a friend who always has their back. Speak up for the men in your life—gossip isn’t assigned to gender. Care enough to broach difficult topics in awkward conversations—your friend will thank you for it later. Be a friend.
David and Jonathan’s friendship is rare, but it doesn’t have to be unique. Pursue it. Prioritise it. Preserve it.