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

~ John 15:13

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day of love and romance. A day to express your undying love for someone and show them just how much you care with chocolates, teddy bears, and a romantic evening. For many, however, Valentine’s Day is anything but a day of love. Whether it’s because they’re single or have hurtful memories surrounding the day, it can be difficult, especially when you only see it as a day for romantic love.

Instead, what if we were to look at Valentine’s Day as a day for love toward everyone we care about? Is it possible to look at all the people in your life whom you care about and have invested time and energy into developing a solid relationship with and let them know you love them?

Especially that friend who’s been with you through the messy breakups, the devastating divorce, or the heartbreaking death of your spouse. Friends who stick by you through thick and thin. Who encourages you to be a better version of yourself. Who accepts you for you, but also isn’t afraid to speak up if they think you’re making a mistake. And who dares you to do crazy things. Like the time the two of you got lost on a hike because they swore they knew about a secret waterfall. Or the time you jumped in the car thinking you were going out to lunch and ended up on an all-day road trip to your favorite beach.

God has created us for relationships of all kinds. We are not meant to live alone, secluded from others.

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

This is a powerful verse. It’s a verse filled with encouragement, but also filled with a high calling for sacrifice. That’s what love is. It’s sacrificing and laying down your own life to care for and uplift someone else. This doesn’t mean dying for a friend (though it could), but that you love your friend so much that you willingly put your friend first when they need it the most.

I love Chip Ingram’s, a preacher from the Silicon Valley, definition of love: “to give someone what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, and at great personal cost.”

This is love.

It is an action. It is a choice. It is a willing sacrifice.

Think about Frodo and his friend Sam. Sam is one of the greatest friendships ever written. From the very beginning, we see Sam’s devotion and love for Frodo. He gives up the comfort of his home to help his friend on the most dangerous and difficult journey of their lives. There are so many moments where Sam could’ve given up. He could’ve said, no the cost is too high, the risk is too great, but he didn’t. Instead, he put aside his own life for Frodo’s. He gave up what he wanted, to give Frodo what he needed most when, by the end, you could argue Frodo didn’t deserve Sam’s help at all. Sam endured ridicule and physical harm, but he chose to love and help Frodo. That’s friendship!

Another genuine friendship is David and Jonathan. David was anointed to be the next king at a young age, but before that, he was a shepherd, a lyre player for King Saul, and the one who defeated Goliath. After his victory over Goliath, Saul became very jealous of him because all the city praised David, saying he was better than Saul. This set Saul on a path to kill David. Poor Johnathan (Saul’s son) was stuck in the middle.

In 1 Samuel 18:1, it says that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” What a powerful phrase! Their friendship was a brotherhood and a closeness like no other. Because of that, Jonathan did all he could to protect David.

When David first approached Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:1 about his dilemma, he asked, “How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?”

Jonathan had a close relationship with his father. His father trusted and confided in him with everything, and Jonathan was certain that Saul would’ve said something if he were truly trying to kill David. He didn’t want to believe his friend’s words or that his father was that vengeful. Yet, he knew his friend David, and knew he would never make up such a lie. He was stuck in a tough situation between loyalty to his friend and loyalty to his father. Jonathan also knew that if David was right, he would have to leave and the two of them may never see each other again. He’d have to give up his best friend.

David proposes a plan to reveal Saul’s intentions. “I’ll hide in the field and stay there until the evening of the third day. If your father asks where I
am, tell him I asked permission to go home to Bethlehem for an annual family sacrifice. If he says, ‘Fine!’ You will know all is well. But if he is angry and loses his temper, you will know he is determined to kill me.”

Jonathan agreed. “I promise by the Lord…I will talk to my father and let you know at once how he feels about you…if he is angry and wants you killed, may the Lord strike me and even kill me if I don’t warn you so you can escape and live.” Jonathan loved his friend David so much, that he was willing to die if he found out the truth and didn’t warn David.

The plan was in place. Jonathan must’ve been praying that his father didn’t get angry, that David was exaggerating his concerns, and all would be well. No one wants to believe that a parent can kill, especially your best friend.

On the third day of David’s absence, Saul asked about David’s whereabout. Jonathan responds as David instructed and Saul becomes livid. “Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. ‘You stupid son of a whore!’ he swore at him. ‘Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place,
shaming yourself and your mother?…Now go and get him so I can kill him!”

Ouch! At that moment, Jonathan’s heart must’ve been wrenched out of his chest. How could his father hate David? And how could he request something so despicable? He knew they were best friends. Jonathan challenges his father, claiming David had done nothing deserving of death. This didn’t have the effect Jonathan was hoping for. Instead of conceding, Saul hurled a spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. He missed and Jonathan ran off.

As promised, Jonathan warns David about Saul’s intentions, knowing that this was a final goodbye. “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to  each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.”

I love this friendship! It is a friendship thicker than blood, deeper than DNA, and bound together by God. They are loyal to one another, forsaking all others in order to protect the one to whom their soul is knit.

There is of course, one last friendship I want to bring up, and that’s Jesus. His is the ultimate friend and the ultimate sacrifice for you and me.
Jesus, the son of God, came into this world and ministered to everyone both physically and spiritually. He loved deeply and cared for others without condition. And when the time came, he willingly took our punishment for sin by dying on the cross. And what’s even better, is he defeated death by rising from the grave, allowing us, through faith in Jesus, to have a restored relationship with our Creator God. Yes, God wants a relationship with us, a friendship as deep as Jonathan and David’s.

God is holy, pure and righteous, and we can never live up to his standards, but because of Jesus Christ, he covers us in his righteousness. What a savior! What a friend!

Photo Source: New Line Cinema