Read I Samuel 20:1-42

“Real men don’t cry at movies!” I got this sagely admonition from an adult male when I was a teenager. I’ve tried to live up to that counsel but sometimes it’s been difficult. I still remember the first movie at which I ever shed a tear. It was “Brian’s Song,” the motion picture that depicted the friendship of two all-star footballs players – Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. I hope I will be forgiven for this failure in masculinity. After all, it was a movie about football.

Piccolo and Sayers were great football players and close friends – role models for both racial unity and genuine friendship. Their story, however, is marked by tragedy. In 1969, Piccolo was diagnosed with cancer. With courage, he fought to play out the season. Unfortunately, he spent more time in hospitals than at games. Between games, Sayers flew to be at his side as often as possible.

Piccolo and Sayers had planned, with their wives, to sit together at the Professional Football Writers annual dinner in New York City. Sayers was to be given the George S. Halas Award for being the most courageous player in pro football. Piccolo was too ill to attend. While receiving the award, tears streamed down Sayers’ face. He said to the assembly: “You flatter me by giving me this award, but I tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas Award. I love Brian Piccolo, and I’d like you to love him. Tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him too.”

Gale Sayers loved Brian Piccolo. For many who read this lesson, especially the men, such a bold expression of affection seems disconcerting. Like the advice that says that real men don’t cry at movies, the idea of two men loving each other seems weird, strange or unusual. Men can be buddies and pals. Men can hang out together, eat pizza, drink their favorite beverage, watch football, basketball, baseball, boxing or golf – but real men don’t love one another.

Understand the Bible plays havoc with these stupid myths about friendship between men. Throughout the Bible, there are numerous examples of men loving each other – and there is nothing unusual, strange or weird about it. In fact, the bonds of such friendship love are necessary and life-enhancing.

This scripture lesson is a story about two men who loved each other – Jonathan and David. The level of commitment that these men had for each other should serve as a friendship model for us all. The story as a special application, however, for the men in our society who are particularly affected by the loneliness so endemic of modern culture.

The first thing we notice about this type of friendship love is that it is quick to offer aid (I Samuel 20:4-8). Knowing that his father, Saul, was mentally unstable and that he sought the death of David, Jonathan offered to help David in any way possible.

Second, Jonathan’s was loyal (I Samuel 20:13-17). He took an oath to be faithful to his friend, even if it meant betraying his father and losing his rights as heir to the throne. Jonathan’s love for David allowed him to set aside personal ambition.

Finally, the friendship between David and Jonathan was a commitment made to one another in the presence of God and surrounded by prayer (I Samuel 20:42). True friendship, therefore, is not a passing camaraderie or merely a social relationship. It is a holy gift from God – something that cannot be shattered by time or space. It is not something that happens by accident but is an act of commitment that can be strengthened when both parties are mutually committed to God.

David and Jonathan were friends who loved one another. They were like brothers. Do we have friends like this? If not, we should realize today that something of value is missing from our lives – something we need to recover.

How can we develop these types of friendships in our lives? Benjamin Franklin said, “To have a friend, a person must first show themselves to be a friend.”

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