Making disciples and making friends requires an initiator. Jesus told his disciples that He had chosen them – they had not chosen Him. It is life changing to be pursued by love, whether in romance, friendship, or discipleship. As a discipler I do not wait for disciples to come to me, I pursue them.
Jonathan gives us a good example of taking the initiative in his friendship with David. Jonathan begins their relationship by drawing David into a love covenant with himself. “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself” (1 Samuel 18:3). To understand their friendship we need to be aware of how a covenant worked in the eastern world. A covenant was an agreement between two parties that set the conditions of the relationship. A covenant was not between equals; rather it followed the pattern common to the ancient near east treaties. The victorious king would set the terms of the covenant with the conquered people. The covenant implied relationship, promise, and expectation. At the beginning of their friendship, Jonathan, as the crowned prince, initiates the covenant with David who, at this point, makes no commitment to Jonathan.
Making disciples is a covenant friendship. In a discipling relationship the discipler takes the initiative to reach out to his disciple. In the beginning a discipler cannot expect a disciple to understand biblical friendship nor discipleship. My purpose is to be their guide as Jesus guided his disciples and Jonathan guided David. Jonathan guides David for 13 years through his formative years in preparation for his life’s purpose to be the king. One example of this guidance is during a time when David discovered that King Saul was on his way to kill him. Jonathan found David and had him focus on the Lord, reminding David of God’s sovereignty and purpose in his life (1 Samuel 23:16-18).
Here are a couple of closing thoughts on being the initiator in a discipleship-friendship:
- Friendship is a learned skill. I teach my disciple how to receive friendship and how to be a friend.
- The pursuit of the friendship is an expression of love and value. The pursuit is a key component of the discipling process. Jonathan pursued David, Jesus chose his disciples, and Paul recruited Timothy.
- The pursuit takes time. I must continue the pursuit of the friendship until my disciple comes to the place of maturity and understanding where he can reciprocate in the friendship. If I waited for my disciples to contact me after our first few meetings, I would have few disciples. The process takes months (sometimes years) rather than weeks. It is important to remember that Jonathan and David’s friendship covered 13 years, Jesus was with his disciples for 3 years, and Paul was with Timothy for 16 years.