David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, ‘What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?’ He said to him, ‘Perish the thought! You shall not die. My father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me? Never!’ But David also swore, ‘Your father knows well that you like me; and he thinks, “Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.” But truly, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death.’ Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Whatever you say, I will do for you.’ David said to Jonathan, ‘Tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at the meal; but let me go, so that I may hide in the field until the third evening. If your father misses me at all, then say, “David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city; for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.” If he says, “Good!” it will be well with your servant; but if he is angry, then know that evil has been determined by him. Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a sacred covenant with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself; why should you bring me to your father?’ Jonathan said, ‘Far be it from you! If I knew that it was decided by my father that evil should come upon you, would I not tell you?’ Then David said to Jonathan, ‘Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?’ Jonathan replied to David, ‘Come, let us go out into the field.’ So they both went out into the field. Jonathan said to David, ‘By the Lord, the God of Israel! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or on the third day, if he is well disposed towards David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But if my father intends to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan, and more also, if I do not disclose it to you, and send you away, so that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father. If I am still alive, show me the faithful love of the Lord; but if I die, never cut off your faithful love from my house, even if the Lord were to cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.’ Thus Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘May the Lord seek out the enemies of David.’ Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life.
At a secondary school assembly I shared the lyrics of “The Friendship Test” by Tenacious D, a conversation in which one tests the friendship of the other by asking the question: “Do you love me?” The other is shocked, asking if he is gay, and whether he fancies him, and eventually can only say that he likes him. His friend declares he has failed the test, but many of us find it difficult to say “I love you.” Many show our love by our support for each other, through thick and thin, but whether by words or deeds, everyone needs to know they are loved.
Here, the beautiful story of David and Jonathan, tells of two friends who truly loved each other, a love for which they would risk their lives – with no suggestion of sexual attraction, nor bound by family ties, nor any sense of dutiful care. In that assembly I suggested that in school years they were probably making friendships which would last a lifetime, and possibly even a friendship with which they would trust their lives. That’s the kind of love Jesus calls us to share, the kind of love that Jonathan and David had, and risked their lives for each other. In the mining communities of the North East, there was a word used carefully – “marra.” Miners worked in pairs, as marras, and you had to totally trust in your marra, because how well you worked together determined how much coal was dug, but more than that, in such a dangerous environment, your life could depend upon him.
This is the selfless, self-giving love Jesus gives us and calls us to share with one another. The assembly had such an impact on students and staff, morning lessons were abandoned, and time given to explore what it meant to be a true friend. Perhaps we could do well to reflect on what that means for us marras in the body of Christ.
Help me Lord to reflect on all my relationships, to be thankful for and appreciate all those who give themselves to me in so many ways. To be confident in myself to give away love freely. To ever be alert to opportunities, in word and deed to show others they are loved. To help everyone reach the place where they can even say “I know God loves me.”
The Rev’d Kevin Watson, Yorkshire Synod Moderator, URC