Frenemy. An enemy disguised as a friend. Or a partner who is also a competitor or rival.

What do you do when your friend is in line for the same position or award as you are? Conflicted emotions are only part of the story. If I come out on top, I want to celebrate … with my friends … but one of those friends is also disappointed and might only pretend to be happy for me. If my friend is honored, how will I hide my own tears and combat the root of bitterness while the world throws them a party? Will it destroy our friendship from the inside out? Does it have to?

I’m reminded of two close-knit friends in the Bible. One was the king’s son and logically in line for the throne. The other was secretly anointed to be king. Jonathan and David.

Here’s the background: King Saul disobeyed God and Samuel delivered the message that the kingdom would be taken away from him. Samuel then anointed David to be the next king. King Saul was distressed and brought David in to play his harp and calm him down. Then along came Goliath, who David killed with a slingshot. The crowds cheered David more than King Saul and he got jealous. When he couldn’t kill David himself, he made him an army captain – hoping their enemies would kill him. He even dangled marriage to his daughter as a reward in hopes David would act impulsively and be killed in battle. (See 1 Samuel 15-18)

Yet, in the middle of all this, Jonathan and David became friends. Their souls were knit together and they made a covenant with each other. Did Jonathan know the future or did he merely see God’s hand on David’s life? How did David feel knowing the prophetic future meant his friend would not be king? The Bible is silent on some things. We can only see the actions of these friends as proof of their hearts.

As the story goes, King Saul told his son Jonathan to kill David, but Jonathan warned David and then talked his father out of the plan to shed innocent blood. Time went by and King Saul tried to personally kill David again. On the run for his life, David sought out Jonathan for advice. Jonathan went to his own father to find out why King Saul wanted David dead … and was personally threatened in return. With a broken heart, he delivered the message to David according to their arranged code. They both wept and parted as friends … renewing their covenant to each other and their descendants forever. (1 Samuel 19-20)

The ensuing years had David running for his life … and still sparing Saul’s life when given the opportunity. And then came the battle with the Philistines where King Saul and his sons, including Jonathan, were killed. When David heard the news, he mourned greatly. He even wrote a song to honor both Saul and Jonathan. Here’s a portion: “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me; Your love to me was wonderful.” (2 Samuel 1: 26)

And as to their covenant? Once David’s kingdom was established, he sought to find if there were any surviving members of Saul’s family so he could show them kindness for Jonathan’s sake.  He found Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son who was lame in his feet. He restored to him all of Saul’s land and invited him to eat at the king’s table continually like one of the king’s sons. (2 Samuel 9)

David and Jonathan were true friends, not rivals.

What about you? Have you ever been in competition with a friend? Did it weaken your friendship or were you able to look beyond it? Why do you think David and Jonathan were able to remain friends?

Friends Or Rivals
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