Quick. Name the Bible story most often used when discussing friendship with children and teens? If you guessed David and Jonathan, you are probably correct. Have you ever noticed though, that the story is often told from the perspective of the benefits David got from the friendship – namely getting advance notice from Jonathan that Saul wanted to kill him? What if we looked at the story – and its aftermath – from a different perspective … What kind of friend was David to Jonathan?
This is an important family devotional. Parents and ministries often spend a lot of time discussing how young people should choose friends who help them be more godly rather than encouraging them to disobey God. We may mention that they should have some of these same qualities to benefit their friends, but most of the focus is still on choosing “good” friends and not on becoming a great friend for others.
Call your children together and ask them what they remember about the story of Jonathan and David. If they don’t remember the details, go back and read over it again. Ask them how they know Jonathan was a good friend to David. Then ask them what kind of friend David was to Jonathan based on the story.
Read to them 2 Samuel 4:4 and 9:6-13. If you have teenagers and the time to dig a little deeper, you may also want to share the story in 2 Samuel 19:9-30 and 21:1-14. These two passages are more complex (and a bit gruesome), but show that David still respected the promises he had made to Jonathan, even after Jonathan’s death. Discuss how David show he valued his friendship with Jonathan in the way that he treated Mephibosheth. Remind them that the customs of the day would have demanded that David kill Mephibosheth as a possible threat to his kingship. Yet he and Mephibosheth both appeared to value the relationship between Jonathan and David more than money or power.
Ask your kids to list all of the qualities of a great friend. Have them draw a picture of a great friend. Encourage them to write descriptive words on their artwork to illustrate their definition of a great friend. Write down a master list of all of the words so everyone can see the complete list. If they miss some you believe are important, feel free to add your ideas to the list. Then ask them which of those qualities they believe they exhibit in their friendships. Are there any with which they struggle? What are some ways they could be a better friend?
If time allows, think of something nice your kids can do for their friends. Perhaps you can all work together to bake some cookies for their friends or make something they would appreciate. Encourage your children to put as much focus on being a good friend as they do in searching for good friends.