Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
David and Jonathan
The Biblical Prince Jonathan and David embrace in a manuscript illustration circa 1300 AD now housed in The British Library, London, United Kingdom.
Last night in Grow Group, we ventured into some interesting territory. Someone started things off, before we’d even officially begun the session, by saying she had heard for the first time just that morning the interpretation that says David and Jonathan were romantically involved.
We took a look at the story (in 1 Samuel 18 - 2 Samuel 1), and talked about the covenant established between the two, the deep love they felt for each other, the line “surpassing the love of women” that is a focal point of this interpretation, the kiss, the exchange of clothing, and so on. This wasn’t a deep reading; I just gave the group kind of a quick scan of the pertinent passages.
When I was done, I gave my opinion of the interpretation, which is that it is definitely possible from the clues that are given, but it is not specifically stated in any way that David and Jonathan’s relationship was romantic. So basically, we know that they loved each other very much, but the Bible never directly states that it is romantic love we are talking about.
This led another participant in the group to say that is what she thinks, too, and furthermore she just can’t believe that anyone would “accuse” David of such a relationship. In this statement she revealed her belief that being gay is something you would “accuse” someone of, as if it was wrong.
I was about to respond when another participant said it for me, “I don't believe being gay is something you ‘accuse’ someone of. It’s just how you are,” she said. I smiled inside!
And knowing she may have been somewhat uncertain about offering her belief, I spoke up in support. “That’s how I feel, as well. The interpretation that David and Jonathan were gay is not an accusation, it is just an idea of what their love may have been.”
Everybody seemed to be okay at this point, and we were able to move on into our discussion. The woman who had made the statement about “accusing” David and Jonathan of gayness kind of just nodded and said, “Oh, okay,” and the woman who had brought it up initially just said, “Yeah, I thought it was interesting and I had never heard it before this morning.”
The point being, nobody got all huffy and angry and bitter about anything. It wasn’t even tense. Everybody simply said what they believed and then we moved on. It was lovely!
I know that some of you who read this will comment with your own perspective on David and Jonathan, and on the whole homosexuality question. We may very well end up with a lengthy back and forth in which we fire our beliefs at one another like flaming arrows. I suppose that kind of thing is inevitable these days, though I am hopeful that it doesn’t need to be. Somebody must choose to be the first to stop hurting others.
By sharing this story, my goal is to point out what a difference being involved face-to-face with a small group of people you know and love can make. Relationship changes everything. Questions about human sexuality are rarely addressed in healthy ways online, or in denominational conferences, or any other venue in which investment in relationship is not required.
Because the people sitting around that table last night knew each other, worshiped together, loved one another, had shared prayer together, and so on, the conversation happened with grace and respect. And we ended up having a very meaningful hour and fifteen minute conversation about grief and loss, the Grow Group topic for the week.
And the thing is, I think 99.9% of people “get” that. You know? The idea that real relationship changes everything. And there isn’t a better venue in the world for that kind of relationship to develop than in the church. Trust, friendship, love - these things develop one at a time, slowly, face to face. You cannot program them. You cannot legislate them. You cannot force them.
But you can cultivate them. You can “till the soil” that will create the conditions in which they may emerge and begin to flourish. It requires an investment of time and energy and is actually pretty hard work! That’s what was happening last night at Grow Group, and it was very good!