Fracturing Friendships

by Stephen Davey

In the Old Testament, Jonathan was a friend who gave—and kept on giving. He gave David the gift of unconditional acceptance. Their friendship was not based on chemistry but commitment. Their commitment was not based on shared interests but shared integrity. Their friendship was tested by David’s popularity and Jonathan’s loss of personal riches.

Their friendship survived the test.

Just as Jonathan gives us a pattern for forging friendships, King Saul gives us a pattern for fracturing friendships.

There was a time, however, when Saul seemed to care for David (1 Samuel 16:21). What caused Saul’s apparent love and interest in David’s life to turn into destructive hatred?

Saul took six destructive steps that ultimately—and permanently—fractured his friendship with David. These are steps we must avoid.

BE SELFISH

To destroy a friendship, make sure it is based on what the other person can do for you. This is primarily the reason Saul wanted David’s company. David was the one meeting Saul’s military, financial, and even emotional needs (1 Samuel 16:22).

What was Saul giving to David in return? At this point, absolutely nothing. Yet David had left his home and family, appeared at Saul’s command, even played his harp when requested; their friendship from the outset was a one-way street.

Saul is like the man who once bragged, “I have friends I haven’t even used yet.”

BE POSSESSIVE

Selfishness and possessiveness usually go hand in hand. To kill a friendship, make sure your friend is bound to your personal plans and objectives. From the very beginning, Saul treats David like personal property. Jonathan, David’s true friend, stands in marked contrast to his father, Saul (1 Samuel 18:1, 4). Jonathan is a giver; Saul is a user.

Throughout my ministry, I’ve witnessed relationships self-destruct in the hands of selfish, possessive people. I’ve seen ministries strangled by parents or spouses who would not allow service to anyone but themselves. Even God was a threat to their possessive hearts.

David’s service to God was more important to him than his service to Saul, and this spelled trouble with the king.

CULTIVATE JEALOUSY

There is an important difference between envy and jealousy. Envy is wanting for ourselves what someone else enjoys. Jealousy is keeping what we have from anyone else to enjoy.

Saul didn’t like the crowds singing about David’s military success. Saul was unwilling to share the spotlight. And the trouble intensified as the nation effectively put David in the spotlight and ushered Saul backstage (1 Samuel 18:6-8).

Saul had missed the very point that this was God’s arrangement for David. Saul was actually battling the will of God by battling the promotion of David. David, however, revealed his understanding when he called the Lord “the lifter” of his head (Psalm 3:3). He didn’t need to exalt himself. If God wanted to lift up David, He would promote David Himself.

David, in fact, is in the process of experiencing divinely ordained promotion. And Saul can’t stand it.

DISREGARD EMOTIONAL RESTRAINT

Make sure your friends allow you to fully express yourself without any need to show consideration for their feelings. Make sure you can say whatever you feel whenever you feel it, without being required to ask them how it sounds or makes them feel. This will guarantee friction and destroy friendships.

Saul is disintegrating at the same pace his friendship with David is disintegrating. Saul is drifting further and further away from personal accountability and emotional restraint. He eventually attempts to kill David with his spear, on several different occasions. Fortunately, Saul is a lousy shot (1 Samuel 18:10-11).

AVOID CONFRONTATION

There are two possible ways to deal with a fracturing friendship. One is to face the problem, while the other is to avoid the person. Avoiding the person is definitely the most popular method chosen. You simply rearrange your schedule so that you don’t cross paths with your former friend. This is what Saul did. He chose to avoid David.

This provides immediate relief, but it doesn’t last long. In fact, without spiritual and biblical accountability, we will, like Saul, continue spiraling downward in bitter jealousy and destructive thoughts.

HARBOR HATRED AND SOLICIT PUBLIC SUPPORT

Eventually, Saul’s hatred for David goes public. He openly criticizes the person who was once his friend. He justifies his own sinful actions with self-righteous words and attempts to gather people around him who agree with his campaign to destroy the reputation of David (1 Samuel 22:6-8).

Despite all his attempts to harm David, Saul becomes the true victim. The one who throws spears is the one who is pierced with guilt. The one who inflicts trouble on others will be tormented with shame. Saul’s reputation will be destroyed by his own hateful campaign against David.

Saul will die without ever mending his broken relationship with David—or God, for that matter.

You may have relationships that are in desperate need of repair. Don’t continue taking these steps that ultimately fracture friendships. Step up and humbly resolve relational issues with grace and transparency.

Refuse the bitter and vengeful model of King Saul, and adopt the grace and humility of King David. By God’s grace, mend relationships and strengthen friendships wherever and whenever you can. 

Begin to forge healthy friendship all over again. Ultimately you will be modeling the grace and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, who calls us His friends (John 15:15).

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