In our society we have often put friendship in a box. We often think that those who we can consider our closest friends are only those in the same age bracket or social position. Through such things as the public school system and societal pressures of “normalcy” our kids are often-times compelled to only build friendships with those that are within a year or two of them. This attitude often projects itself into adulthood and we often find, even in the church, groups of “friends” that include only those within certain age brackets or social positions.
Such should not be the case. We should not limit our opportunities for friendships and close relationships based upon age or some other superficial factor. Webster defines a “friend” as: “One who is attached to another by affection; one who entertains for another sentiments of esteem, respect and affection, which lead him to desire his company, and to seek to promote his happiness and prosperity.” This is not some perverse desire or lust, but a relationship of esteem and respect that brings about affection and the desire for one’s company. That type of relationship does not have the boundaries of age, social status, or physical makeup; and we should not try to force it into that box.
Consider the relationship of David and Jonathan. They are described in Scripture as loving one another, being as brothers, and being willing to take care of each other and put the other one first. Yet one thing that is often overlooked is the age discrepancy between the two men. Jonathan is leading Saul’s army by the second year of his reign (meaning he is at least 20 years old – 1 Sam. 13:1-2; Num. 1:3). David will be 30 years old when he begins to reign at the end of Saul’s 40 year reign (2 Sam. 5:4). This means that Jonathan was about 30 years old when David was born. There were three decades between two of the closest friends we read about in Scripture!
Wise friends can give some of the greatest council, but if the only friends we have are the ones that have shared our own experiences in life, the wisdom is limited and so is the council; therefore, we are in danger of being like Rehoboam (1 Kin. 12). We should not be teaching our children to limit the realm from which they take their friends based upon physical factors; instead, we should be encouraging them to choose their friends, whatever their age, based upon the esteem and respect they have for God and one another, reinforcing the assistance good influences can have on each Christian’s life.
I am thankful to be able to say that many of my closest friends are old enough to be my father (or grandfather in some cases); and the closeness of those relationships and the positive impacts they have on my life are blessings that are not held lightly or without appreciation. Take the lesson of David and Jonathan and let’s teach our children (both in word and example) the value of broad bases of friendships across the spectrum of age and societal position. It will strengthen their character and their ability to serve God.