In the western world, there is an epidemic among our young men. An infection that has spread so deep in our society that it’s become normative, an almost unavoidable part of the male experience. That disease is loneliness. According to a recent study performed by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, 46 percent of men say they experience severe loneliness. Instead of pursuing deep, personal, intimate friendships, boys are taught from an early age to access friendships obliquely by joining clearly defined groups, teams, or organizations. We see this clearly play out in boy scouts, sports culture, and greek life to name just a few. We are taught that the right way to be a man is to be stoic, detached, independent, and guarded. To be intimate with another boy would cost the high social price of being labelled soft, weak, or gay.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Toxic masculinity and patriarchy are nothing new. They’ve existed and thrived in various forms since the dawn of time. But today we’re looking at a new, dangerous expression of these ails.
One of my favourite parts of the story of David is his relationship with Jonathan, King Saul’s eldest son. The two meet at a young age when David becomes the King’s armour-bearer and they become immediately inseparable.
—the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.
1 Samuel 18
David is accepted by Jonathan as his spiritual brother. Jonathan stays true and faithful to David even through all the evil and torments his Father would go on to inflict upon him. Even going so far as to help David escape the city when Saul decides to kill him. Jonathan chooses David over his own blood.
How many friends could we say that about?
Jonathan (to David): Let the Eternal God of Israel be my witness; this is my vow.
—If my father plans to harm you, then may the Eternal do to me what he plans for you—and more—if I don’t let you know and send you away to safety. May the Eternal One be with you, as He has been with my father. If I live, then show to me the faithful love of the Eternal that I may not die. Do not ever take your faithful love away from my descendants, not even if the Eternal were to remove all the enemies of the house of David from the face of the earth. May the Eternal One guarantee this promise by the hands of David’s enemies.
With these words, Jonathan made a covenant with David and his descendants. And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for Jonathan loved him more than life itself.
1 Samuel 20
It’s no secret that making, growing, and maintaining deep personal relationships and friendships is hard work. And it only gets harder with age. Every year that passes by our life gives us more and more excuses to put off connecting with others. We opt for quick, easy, surface connection over long-formed, meaningful, deep connection.
The incredible example given to us by David and Jonathan shows us just how important those friendships truly are. David would not have survived Saul’s betrayal if it wasn’t for Jonathan. He would not have gone on to become King; he would not have gone on to unite the north and south kingdoms of Israel; he would not have gone on to Father the line that Jesus was born to. None of these things would have happened if David didn’t have the support, nurturing, connection, and love of Jonathan.
So friends; male, female, and non-binary alike, let us be vulnerable and true in our relationships. Let us pursue life-changing friendships. And let us love each other more than life itself.