Summary: This sermon focuses attention on the kind of relationship that God desire each of us to aspire to in order to enjoy genuine relationships. It uses the story of the friendship between Jonathan and David to illustrate the type relationship God blesses.

Three simple words, words worth dying for! “I Love you.”

Ernest T. Bass, a character from “The Andy Griffith Show” gives us a glimpse of a friendship moment:

“Malcom, I ain’t gonna touch a hair on your head. You’re my friend, my true friend. I don’t care if you did take my job away from me and ruin my matrimonial chances with my beloved Romeena.

You’re my friend, Malcolm, my bosom pal.

I love you,

I love you,

I loooove you!”

I shared this introduction my first Sunday as the pastor of Vail Valley Baptist Church in 2002. For many years, long after we moved to another field of service, we would hear the phrase, “I loooove you!” These words set a precedent for the kind of relationship God’s expected us to maintain—we did and continue to have close relationships with friends we met in Vail, Arizona. This love characterizes relationships that span almost 35 years that began at Mt. Bethel Baptist Church, Leesville, LA. (There are many other examples to share)

As Jesus saw Mary’s tears of grief due to the death of her brother he was deeply moved. Those observing, even those would quickly turn against Jesus said, “Look how deeply he loved him. John 11:36. I believe those were also tears of compassion for Mary and the love Jesus had for her. Jesus says to all of us, “I looove you!”

Ted was born in 1942 in Chicago. At the age of 9 he was hospitalized for 5 days. The doctor’s order prohibited his parents from holding or hugging him. His parents described him as listless and withdrawn when he came home.

Though he was a bright young man, continued withdrawal described him. While not considered strange or weird, he was viewed as a withdrawn person that was a “discipline problem.” Yet, at the age of 16 he headed off to Harvard.

He shared a very stylish suite with 5 other young men. One roommate said, “I can’t remember having a conversation with him.” Another said, “Ted had a special talent for avoiding relationships by moving quickly past groups of people and slamming the door behind him.”

He moved further into isolationism, instructing his family to draw a red line under the postage stamp to identify “urgent and important” letters. His family sent him a letter marked in red when his father died. Ted wrote back saying the message did not merit a red line. At the deepest point of his seclusion the world came to know him by his tag name–the Unabomber.

What causes some people to isolate themselves from society and avoid intimate relationship? Avoiding the possibility of friendship and fellowship? Ted Kaczynski did it. Howard Hughes, a multimillionaire did it. Jay Paul Getty ended up living isolated and alone.

As a teenage boy I would often cry myself to sleep because of feeling alone and rejected. Yet, my desire to love and to be loved has never been snuffed out. When I have felt like withdrawing the Almighty God urges me to give up my fear, my busyness, and my lack of faith so that I may “plunge into the pool of friendships.” (Hays p. 3)

I am not talking about acquaintances with whom you work or socialize. I am talking about intimate friends with whom you:

• Share from the depth of your soul...

• Confide in with no reservation...

• You expose the real you...

• Trust with the most intimate thoughts...

Who are your friends? Do you have any? I often ask clients with whom I work, “If you need to talk with someone, to whom would you go?”

The story of Jonathan and David is one of those biblical accounts that draws me like a magnet. They should have been enemies; yet they were friends.

In 1 Samuel 16, we read about Samuel anointing David. Scripture implies that David was invited to play the harp for Saul without Saul knowing God had placed his hand upon David. The text is not clear about Jonathan’s relationship with David prior to 1 Samuel 18:1.

David, a shepherd boy and the youngest in the family, went to the battlefield to check on his brothers. When he got arrived, he heard Goliath and was puzzled as to why he had intimidated the Israelites. for 40 days. David encouraged Saul,

Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him. (I Samuel 17:32)

To make a long story short, David went out to face Goliath “in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel”. Goliath had openly defied Yahweh. With a sling and a stone David faced the giant and struck him down.

Saul was impressed with the event and asked to speak with David. David was proud of himself as he clutched the head of the giant, an incredible sight to have observed.

The Bible does not give us the details of Saul’s conversation with David; however, it does introduce us to another story line that I find very fascinating to follow. I do not want us to focus on the story related to Saul and David; I want us to focus our attention on the relationship that develops between Jonathan and David–both are heroes of this story. In this story line, we learn several important lessons.


By the time David had finished reporting to Saul, Jonathan was deeply impressed with David—an immediate bond was forged between them. He became totally committed to David. From that point on he would be David’s number-one advocate and friend.

2 Saul received David into his own household that day, no more to return to the home of his father.

3-4 Jonathan, out of his deep love for David, made a covenant with him. He formalized it with solemn gifts: his own royal robe and weapons—armor, sword, bow, and belt. 1 Samuel 18 MSG

The initiative by Jonathan to make a covenant with David is significant for understanding their friendship.

First, Jonathan made a covenant with David.

The idea of a covenant does not inspire us the way it did the Israelites of old and the early Christians. Covenants were binding agreements for the Israelites. The highest and most binding form of covenant was a blood covenant. Covenant comes from the Hebrew word berith–from a verb meaning to cut or divide.

God is a covenant making God. In Him we learn about the kind of commitment to love that is bound up in relational covenants.

"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.

33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:31ff

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Luke 22:20

But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. Hebrews 8:6

The new covenant God has made with his people is based upon love and grace–not duty-bound legalism. It is a model for the kinds of relationships we are to have with each other.

Second, Jonathan openly expressed his love for David

Jonathan uses the word aheb {aw-habe'} that is translated love. It is used in reference to the kind of love expressed in marriage, friendship, preferences for food, love for God and His love for us. He does not use a word that describes something that is unattainable for an average Joe like you and me!

What, then, makes it unique? The willingness to express it and mean it!

Some suggest this was an act affirming David as the future king. The Bible does not tell us if the news of David’s anointing had reached the ears of Jonathan; I doubt it. Granted, it may have been one of those moments when the providence of God shines through the dimmed eyes of the human soul.

Many speculate when interpreting this passage; however, no speculation is needed to determine the kind of relationship that developed between Jonathan and David.

One thing is clear, Jonathan shared his royal position with David. It has the same ring of certainty as the story of the Father welcoming home the prodigal son.

But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate.

24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15

So, what did the father do? Did the father discuss penance with restitution? Did he discuss restitution? Did he discuss punishment? No! they began to celebrate.

Covenant love looks beyond the external things of life and focuses on the heart. Covenant love does not focus upon what you can get out of a relationship; covenant love focuses on what we can give to elevate the other person in stature. Jonathan was willing to take that risk.

When will we agree that enough damage has been done to our families, our church families, and our communities? An equal number of divorces occur among believers as with non-believer couples. Too many church families are characterized by strife and conflict.

What will it take for us to enter a covenant that says the chief aim of our fellowship, our top priority, is to love one another? Let me encourage you to read I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, from a different perspective. Instead of looking at it from the idea it tells us how to treat others, meditate on how it affirms how we should be treated. When you realize how good it is to be loved and the compassion of God stirs your soul, you will want to extend that kind of love to others. We often struggle to love others because we have not been loved.

A former missionary serving as Missionary in Residence at Louisiana College was sensitive to how adults often ignore children when in groups. He taught his children to say this when introduced to adults: “I am a little body, but I am a somebody”. That is the driving force behind my ministry, everybody deserves to be treated like they are a somebody. Everybody deserves to be loved.

God is beckoning the church to call a moratorium on hurt and to proclaim the year of covenant friendship. It is high time we get our heads out of the clouds and realize we can enjoy the miracle of intimate relationships. You may recall the story of Jesus’ conversation with Peter at a campfire breakfast, after Peter had denied Jesus.

In the discourse we learn Jesus wanted Peter to reflect upon the degree of love he has for Him. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him--the first two times He uses the word agapas—a self-sacrificing, giving, love. Peter responds using the word philo—brotherly love. In Jesus' third question He uses Peter's word.

Agapan has more of judgment and deliberate choice; philein has more of attachment and peculiar personal affection. (Easton Bible Dictionary) Philein is the word Jesus uses when referring to us as his friends.

The kind of covenant love Jonathan demonstrated was risky. The kind of covenant love Jesus has for us was costly–to the point of death on the cross.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

14You are my friends if you do what I command.

15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

17This is my command: Love each other. John 15

The church is called upon to express a deep level of love and commitment to each other. When Christians understand God’ s love for us we will understand how to reach out to a hurting world.

Expressing covenant love expresses our commitment; however, God also wants us to understand:


Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David

2and warned him, "My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there.

3I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I'll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out."

4Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, "Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefitted you greatly.

5He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?"

6Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: "As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death."

7So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before. 1 Samuel 19

There is an abundance of talk about love; yet Scripture calls us to the practice of love. Paul says we can do a lot of fancy Bible trivia and master the teachings of contemporary Pharisees, but if our actions and words are not inspired by love, we fall short of God’s will.

I love how Eugene Peterson translates Paul’s introduction to what came to be known as the love chapter.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. 1 Corinthians 13

Love is an action word! Your faith is important! Your ability to live by hope is crucial! Yet, the ability to master the mystery of love transcends faith and hope. (I Cor. 13:13)

Back to the biblical story about Saul, David, and Jonathan. Sadly, Saul failed to master the art of loving. It was a sad day when Jonathan realized the evil intent of his father. I am sure Saul’s servants had made excuses for him, “You’ll have to excuse Saul, he’s just not himself today.”

On the other hand, I see Jonathan exhibiting the kind of self-giving love that Jesus demonstrated in its fullness. Jonathan was willing to risk a broken relationship with his father for David’s safety and well-being. Jesus was willing to move beyond academic treatises on love and stretch out his arms in death to express his love for us.

A strong contrast existed between Saul and Jonathan. Saul was focused on what David did, Jonathan focused on who David was. There is a multifaceted warning here for us.

First, we can become more occupied with redemption, rather than with the redeemer. With salvation, rather than the Savior. Second, this will affect how we look at friends. We must not look at people for what they do for us. We must look at them for who they are in Christ. Love is incarnational; authentic love is God’s unconditional love flowing through us. Love needs to be hands on real love.

The practice of incarnational love is personal and practical.

A group of 4th graders interviewed people, asking them about what is most important in a friendship (e.g., friends, family, and internet that included people from around the world.)

1. Friends can trust each other.

2. Friends help each other.

3. Friends do things together.

4. Friends are loyal to each other.

5. Friends are honest with each other.

6. A friend is someone that you can talk to and who listens to you.

7. Friends share with each other.

8. A friend is there in the good times and the bad times.

9. Friends never judge you–they accept you for who you are. (Hays, p. 7)

The practice of love is often painful–we are vulnerable for hurt when we are willing to love. I will always remember a couple who asked to visit with me one Sunday afternoon. They had a long history of caring for children in the foster program. In their care were two beautiful twin girls approximately three-years-old. The children had deep scars, way beyond the visible scars. Mother and dad had physically abused them. Their dad had sexually assaulted them. The foster dad exercised caution; if he corrected them in the slightest manner, the girls would resort to behavior with sexual cues. Why? They had apparently learned the sexual assault was less painful than the physical assaults. Sad! They had expressed a desire to adopt the girls; however, they were returned to the mother and she ran to another state.

This couple was devastated, deeply hurt, and, with tears flowing down the cheeks, told me they would not keep anymore foster children. I extended loving care the best I could. Near the end of our conversation, I made this statement, you may be the only couple that loves those children. Will you take the risk of being hurt? When we absolutely love people, we become vulnerable for hurt. Jesus experienced this on a level not experienced by us; however, he was sensitive to the need people have for sustaining love.

As I prayerfully studied the story of friendship between Jonathan and David, I found myself asking, how can the church practice love and witness the restoration of trust? Acts 2:42-47 provides an excellent model for Christians and churches.

1. Make deep and lasting covenants with others—not simply devoting ourselves to the preaching of the Word.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

2. Extend life changing opportunities for God to touch people’s lives through us—not simply focusing on vibrant worship.

43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

3. Allow ourselves to let love transcend all socioeconomic barriers, avoiding a “us” vs “the” attitude—refusing to establish churches based on ethnicities and other identities.

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.

4. Embrace a theology of equality that challenges us to meet the needs of those in our fellowship and beyond—refusing to become selfish and self-centered.

45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

5. Realize the fellowship of a church is a daily existential experience— demythologizing the belief that fellowship is a once-a-month meal.

46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

6. Enjoy the manner in which worshiping God and celebrating Christian brotherhood elicits collective praise—refusing to believe the church is becoming ineffective.

47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

We must encourage the church to assimilate into small groups and cultivate opportunities for people to know it is okay to be real and to be cared for. On one occasion when Saul was attempting to kill David, Jonathan and David met in a field—remember Saul is Jonathan’s father.

41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together-- but David wept the most. 1 Samuel 20:41

42 Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.'" Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. 1 Samuel 20

David honored his treasured relationship with Jonathan, caring for Jonathan’s crippled son after Jonathan died. This is the kind of meaningful relationships that are shaped in small groups. Christians must find ways to communicate God’s love to unbelievers through ministries that meet felt needs. We must find practical ways to let people know we mean it when we say, “You matter to God and because you matter to God you matter to me and I will treat you like a chosen vessel of God.”

I often ask my wife when we are talking about a sermon I preached, what is the takeaway? What is the application from this sermon?


I do not believe we will find another story in the Bible that allows us to see love and grace at work in a relationship, at least to this level of a human relationship. I am fascinated by the exchange of compassion and solidarity found in this story. Following are some of the exchanges found in 1 Samuel 20:

3 Yet David vowed again, [c]saying, “Your father knows well that I have found favor in your sight, and he has said, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.’ But truly as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is [d]hardly a step between me and death.” 4 Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever [e]you say, I will do for you.”

14 If I am still alive, will you not show me the lovingkindness of the LORD, that I may not die? 15 You shall not cut off your lovingkindness from my house forever, not even when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” 16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD require it at the hands of David’s enemies.” 17 Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.

41 When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David wept the more. 42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD will be between me and you, and between my [q]descendants and your [r]descendants forever.’” [s]Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.

How do you explain the determination, commitment, loyalty, and patience of Jonathan? Too often we attempt to escape relationships because we lose hope that love can truly prevail.

To illustrate, in our post-marriage culture, the term “expressive divorce” was birthed in the 90s, written about by Barbara Whitehead.

"Expressive divorce" is the notion that divorce is an instrument for self-development, self-actualization, self-expression—that it is a way to be a new and better me. It also carries with it a kind of ethical imperative. That is, one is obligated to pursue divorce if it seems to promise greater personal happiness, and that obligation comes before other obligations in the marital commitment.

This type of divorce has become a metaphor for what happens with Christians; people check out on the fellowship of believers when they sense others are not fulfilling needs instead of them becoming devoted to the care of others. Self-development, self-expressive ways to a

new and better me takes precedent over sacrificial giving and caring as seen between Jonathan and David.

We need to experience more expressive friendships that are based upon and sustained by the power of the resurrection! We need to rely more upon God’s power to transform relationships and less upon our ability to manipulate people! We have a relationship hunger in our society. People are looking for places to engage in meaningful relationships. The church has a market on relationships, and we ought to be a shining example for the world.

Yes! Three dynamic words of Christianity: Faith, Hope and Love. But the most magnetic words are, “I love you.” To know you are loved will change your life. People need to see the love of Jesus flow through our lives.

When Jesus saw Mary’s tears of grief over her brother, Lazarus, his spirit was deeply moved in His Spirit and he wept. Even the Jews noticed his love and said, “Look how deeply he loved (phileo) him.” (Jn. 11:36)

What really matters? In the 1990s Americans added 36 hours to their work year, working an average of 49 ½ hours a week. With technology we are constantly at work. If not working while sitting in the living room, many are carrying on virtual and pseudo relationships. Jason Collington told the following story.

Lori Holland had often been encouraged to slow down, not to work all of the time. She discovered a “Dear Abby” letter her daughter had written. Kelsey had asked for advice about how to tell her mom that life isn’t just paperwork and deadlines but fun and happiness. Signed, “Out of Ideas.”

Kelsey never mailed the letter. Before she could, she died in her sleep of respiratory failure at age 13. In her own letter to “Dear Abby” Lori wrote: “I wish I had listened before it was too late to spend more time with Kelsey. Every moment of life is precious, and we truly don’t know how much time we have left.”

Jason Collington, “Live to Work”

Here is a challenge. Make a list of each important aspect of your life (i.e., friendship with Jesus, work, family, friendships, health, service to others, relaxation, etc.) Rank them according to their value on a scale of 1-10; now, rank them according to how much time and energy you give each. Utilize a continuum where (1) means shallow, superficial relationship and (10) means a relationship where there is a deep bond. Use the continuum to evaluate your relationships. Then make a list of things to do to strengthen each of those relationships.

We will never know how Jonathan would have responded to David being crowned King over him, he died before that became an issue. What we do know is that he died with the satisfaction that he had a “bosom pal.” One he could tell, “I loooove you.”