Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.
2 Samuel 1:26b (NIV)
Hidden sexual relationships are often viewed upon as shameful. I was personally blown away when friends of mine began to have sex in high school, because it all just felt way too soon. I could not help but feel that these friends of mine, these kids (read: 16-year-olds) were now dirtied in some irreparable way. The looked different to me – like their appearance seemed to morph into something much more defined. Suddenly, I took in their curves, the droops of their skin, the exact ovalness of their eyes. They were no longer a general whole, but rather, a collection of pieces – parts that were touched and utilized and dirtied.
I now know this reaction to have been completely internalized in Jesse-land, because I often did not discover my friends’ affairs until well after they had occurred. The “transformation” in their physical appearance happened only when I had found out. So when I say, it was not them but me, you know I am being completely earnest.
I think this is the most important question: If we consider the possibility that David and Jonathan had a romantic (and perhaps sexual) relationship, does that alter our view of them? So far, the two mentions of practical homosexuality occur in tandem with stories of gang rape and then punitive destruction (Sodom & Gomorrah and then again with the Danites). Two further theoretical references occur in the Law, where we are told male-to-male sexual contact is reprehensible. But let’s remember the exceptions we have found to the rules, most recently in Ruth – where a marriage between two forbidden peoples occurred without retribution. This passage in 1 Samuel is the first time we hear about affectionate male interaction of any form, and there is absolutely no judgment laid upon either of them for their relationship. That much we know to be true. But everything else? We do not know. We just don’t. Who among us can claim to have witnessed this relationship, the ins and outs, the length and passion of their kisses, the existence of sex or not? I cannot. You cannot.
But I think the possibility of homosexuality sullies the reverence that most religious people hold for David. And on what basis? Is it because the Law says no to it? But the Law says no to things that good, Godly, Old Testament people ignore without punishment. So why is this different?
Because gay people are gross. Boys kissing boys is icky and different and makes people feel like their love is less realm, and I mean it. If there is no biblical basis (at this time) for reviling homosexuals, why does the possibility of it disgust certain people in such an unbelievable way? Ruth entered into an interracial marriage against the law, and no one cared. So here it is: We as a culture just think it’s revolting and weird. Welcome to the basis of homophobia.
I invited another friend to provide her thoughts on this issue, and I found her response quite succinct and beautiful. This is from Liane LeMaster, a compassionate scholar, writer, and friend:
My clearest, most visceral memory of King David, I’m sorry to admit, is the 1985 movie poster starring Richard Gere. His bearded American Gigolo head floats in the clouds above a faceless army with three spears and a vague Middle Eastern plateau. There’s a woman on the poster, smaller and in the background, yet a bright halo of light blooms between them. I wish this woman was Jonathan. Sorry, Micah. While the passages from Samuel reflect the complex, political machinations of serving God’s choice, what I want to see is not the rock star David, nor the manipulator, Saul: the story I’m interested in is Jonathan’s. He cedes his throne and warns David of danger multiple times. He’s the ultimate wing man. And his love is pure. Why can’t he be gay? I would hold Jonathan up as an example of real love. Real gay love. In all its purity and Biblical acceptance.
So let’s take a step back. Here we have a story of pure connection, a love without bounds. David and Jonathan acted to one another in a way that is uncommon today. Let’s learn something from that unbelievable loyalty. And don’t let the fact that it may have been more ruin your image of that love. As a friendship, it is astounding. As a relationship, it is equally astounding.
It is love. Either way.