Tag Archives: leadership

Authentic :: Jonathan

When I was little I had a BFF. Or so I thought. As it turned out, she wasn’t so much of a BFF as she was a BF whenever it was convenient. And it was convenient when we were 7 and lived close to one another and had similar interests. But she became a cheerleader as soon as middle school hit—she was popular and beautiful and had no interest in me and my nerdy self, unless it was to toss me up in the air in a cheerleading stunt and hope I didn’t break on the way down. It wasn’t a wise choice, but sometimes when we really want to fit in and be like the “cool kids”, we’ll do anything short of throwing ourselves into lava pits. Sometimes though, I think the lava pit would be more forgiving.

Life may be hard, but building our legacy doesn’t have to be.

As I grew older, I learned what a real BFF looked like. Friendship is a lot like love, it’s patient, kind, giving (see I Corinthians 13, really not just for marriage!)—it’s not selfish and it certainly doesn’t value popularity over people. The most important lesson I have learned about friendship is that friends help you grow. And best friends help you work to improve your flaws rather than simply judging your imperfections. Life is short and hard, and God didn’t intend for us to live it on our own. He means for us to live in relationship with others, which is why Jesus had circles of friends. I mean, look at the trinity itself—we are made in God’s image and God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit work in tandem and in communion. We are meant to do the same. To build something that will far outlast the length of our days here on earth. Life may be hard, but building our legacy doesn’t have to be.

Losing a Legacy

We remember Jonathan not as a great ruler but as the best friend of David, future King of Israel. Jonathan is friendship, and if we pay attention we can learn to be (and have) great friends too.

In 1 Samuel 14: 49 & 13:1-3 we see Jonathan establishing his legacy as a military leader under his father’s command. The text tells us Saul is a young man (between 30-40 years old) at the time of this raid, so Jonathan must be in his teens, probably no more than 15-18, yet he is already in charge of a military unit.

While it was customary for young men to be a part of the military during their teenage years, in order to be established as a respected leader, they would have to have been born with significant charismatic qualities. Even a prince had to prove himself worthy of such a role among a militant culture. 

Right after this raid, Saul makes a big boo-boo. He gets impatient when waiting for Samuel, a prophet of the Lord, and offers up the burnt sacrifice to the Lord, which sounds great. He’s super religious, right? Well, not exactly. According to God’s law, Saul, a Benjaminite, should have waited for a Levite, Samuel, to offer these burnt sacrifices up. Take a look at Leviticus 1 for more of the law regarding this. Beyond this break of protocol, Saul’s heart was not really in the right place. He offered the sacrifices, not because he believed the Lord was on their side and would provide. Not as a way to thank the Lord for his graciousness and favor. And not even as a way to appease the Lord. No, Saul saw his army scatter and realized they would see him as a weak leader. So he offered these sacrifices as a way to make himself look better and convince the men to continue to follow him

Photo by Andrii Podilnyk on Unsplash

1 Samuel 13:22-14:23 returns to Jonathan, who must have heard the proclamation of Samuel who has just informed Saul his kingdom will not last. As such, his father’s mistakes have cost Jonathan the throne. One day he knew the exact direction his life was headed, and the next moment everything is completely up in the air. 

But that doesn’t stop him. Jonathan has a job to do. They are in the midst of a war and they are severely outnumbered. The army is weaponless. and yet, he confidently asserts that the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel (vs. 12b). With only his brave armor bearer as back up (and this armor bearer actually follows him. Definitely seeing some of the charisma) he goes into the Philistine camp and kills some twenty men in an area of about half an acre (v. 14)–totally William Wallacing the whole lot of them. 

Saul sees the apparent chaos caused by God and led by his son, and first tries to hide behind the ark, then rallies the troops and goes into battle. Confidence shaken, we can already see how leadership is transferring out of his hand and into those who have more faith–his son and then later, David. 

Questioning Leadership

1 Samuel 14:24-43  reveals a lot of family dynamics and motivation. Saul pronounces a curse on whoever should break his, rather stupid, oath. Curses have real power and are directly connected to the actions of people. Well, okay, but what is a curse? According to GraceLife Church’s Grow Spirit Life, “A curse is a binding agreement [contract] in the spiritual realm which results from some form of disobedience to God’s word. The EFFECT or FRUIT of that agreement in our lives is called a CURSE. The curse will function like a barrier or limitation” (49). The results of Saul’s impulsive declarations are clear throughout the text, all the way to Jonathan and Saul’s deaths in 1 Samuel 31. Curses are real, but thanks to Jesus and God’s grace, they can be broken. Consider this:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. 

Galatians 3:13-14

There are 5 main sources of curse: Generational sin/curses, occult involvement, disobedience, unholy/symbolic things, spoken curses (if you are interested in learning more, I recommend participating in the Grow Spirit Life group led by Pastor Jimmy at GraceLife). So Saul’s pronunciation is no joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly, by anyone in his army. 

While Saul does not make a particularly wise decision in bounding his men to an oath not to eat all day before an important battle, Jonathan also makes a mistake. First, he does not communicate well with his father, who is also his commander. This lack of communication leads to his tasting the honey and bring the curse down upon himself and the men. Second, he questions his commander/father’s decisions in verse 29. Although I agree with Jonathan’s assertion and judgment of his father’s decisions, making the comment to his men–who are also under Saul’s authority–shows a lack of wisdom on Jonathan’s part. Where he should be helping to build unity among the men, his comments breed disunity and the discord can be poisonous should it start to spread.

Like most teenagers, Jonathan doesn’t always agree with the decisions his father makes. Interestingly, we don’t see him openly rebel against his father, but we do see him question his father’s choices. There is a time and a place for us to question people who have been placed in authority over our lives. It’s not always wrong to question a leader’s decisions, but we have to be careful in how we go about this process. Talking to others, gossiping and grumbling only brings discord whereas open and honest communication with our leaders can sometimes bring about change. God wants us to stand up for what is right and good, but he wants us to do it the right way, not our own way. 

Building a new Legacy

In 1 Samuel 15 Saul makes his biggest boo-boo of all. God gives him a command: Now go up, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them […] (vs.3). But Saul doesn’t listen; he kept the King alive, he kept some sheep and cattle, and he set up a monument to himself. And, he doesn’t even realize what a major jerkface he is being! 1 Samuel 15: 22-23 spells out the real problem: Saul thought he knew better (and was better) than God. His punishment: God rejects him as king, His spirit left him, and he would live a troubled life from here on out. Furthermore, his legacy would end and be given over to a new dynasty. Unfortunately, that is bad news for Jonathan too, because home slice just officially and irrevocably lost his claim to the throne.

As we continue to read, in 1 Samuel 18: 1-4 Saul’s been rejected by the Lord, which unfortunately means Jonathan has too.  There is some debate about exact ages of these men at this point, but after doing a lot of research, I pitch my tent in the theological camp that suggests David was about 18 when he met Jonathan, who was about 29.

Why? Because of the way Jonathan reacts to this young man who is taking the place he always thought would be his. He saw David slay Goliath, and perhaps it reminds him of a time when he believed he could do the same. Perhaps he remembers the time he pulled a Braveheart on the Philistines and trusted in the Lord. He sees himself in this young David, but even more, he does not see his father with whom he has been at odds since his own youth. He looks at this man anointed by God and became one in spirit with David and loved him as himself (vs. 1). It takes maturity and an awful lot of life experience and faith to allow someone to take your place and to do it with a gracious heart and a thankful spirit. 

Instead of being bitter and resentful, Jonathan chooses to embrace this shift and pour his heart into helping young David be the man God wants him to be. He chooses to listen to God and believe God knows what is best, even if it is a disappointment to himself. 

Unfortunately at this point, it becomes painfully obvious that Jonathan has to pick a side: his father or his friend. And we see that it wasn’t much of a choice. 1 Samuel 19-20 develops the relationship and shows that Jonathan chooses David–he chooses faith and God and life over the death and destruction that now seems to follow and plague his father. 

Jonathan is proof that even the strongest human needs good friends. In David’s case, Jonathan literally saved his life at least twice, but our friends can be lifesavers too if they are operating within the God-given purpose of community. Friends bring accountability and encouragement–both of which help us to function in the purpose God has set for us. In Genesis 2:18 God declared that it was not good for man to be alone, clearly, we are made for community. Yes, this pronunciation was made before God created his helper, Eve, but I think it is applicable to friendship too. Spouses offer one kind of encouragement and accountability, but friends offer another level. Even Jesus had friends. Same-gendered, multi-generational friends offer different kinds of support that help us seek and pursue God’s purpose for our lives. But it works both ways; to have good friends, you must be a good friend and once you find your people, you know. Friendship is active. So, get going. 

Initiate and Practice

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Day 3 in this challenge was about initiative. Just write. I got up at 4 am to just write for 2 hours. Not ideal, but I didn’t suffer too terribly the rest of the day for it. I got a lot of writing in, and enjoyed the time to just sit and think in the morning, cogitating on my characters plights instead of my own. It was a refreshing way to start the day. I can’t do that every day but if I continue with my spreadsheet, the concept remains the same: habitual writing. On his blog Goins writes, “Every day, you have a decision: to start or stop the things worth doing.” I can appreciate this on multiple levels, but first and foremost with my writing. I have been focusing myself since October, and hope to continue indefinitely, because as Goins says these types of habits help “make you more of your truest self.”

Day four builds on this concept. I do not enjoy the limelight. I enjoy praise (who doesn’t?) and I like the concept of building an audience, but the process by which I must travel to get there is, let’s face it, terrifying to the introverted.

I have been in many leadership roles throughout my life, some voluntary, some not so voluntary, but each time I was relieved to finally step down and let someone else take over. Why? Because it is more work to put myself out there than it is to work diligently behind the scenes or passively observe and work. But writing is active. Most things worth learning from are. The challenge is to become more active with my writing.

Honestly, I’ve already accepted this challenge. I sent out a book proposal and signed a contract. Now I have to keep up that habit and continually search for ways to practice publically. I am not scared to fail; in a lot of ways I am scared to succeed because I know success will thrust me into a spotlight I wonder if I’m ready for. Failure in this industry is what I’ve come to expect, perhaps prematurely, but there is a reason artists are ‘starving’. Success is often more troubling, so practicing is the only cure.