1 When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5 David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; 1 Samuel 18:1-5aI am spending the week with Jonathan and David. I am preaching on chapter 20, but their relationship begins here with this passage. A passage that makes most of the people I have read this week squirm. So what do we do with this passage. "The soul of David was bound to the soul of Jonathan and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." I ran across a number of sermons about soul friendships a worthy subject. Who doesn't want a friend that knows you better than yourself and loves you and God. We could all use a friend who is true.
But ... the word friend never appears in this text. I mean switch the names and you have a line from any romantic novel. Where love is described as deep and true as something where not just hearts but souls meet. So all the articles about David and Jonathan being gay raise a legitimate point based on the language of the words we have here. And those articles that try to discount this interpretation seem to miss the feeling behind the words.
So what makes some of us want this relationship to be more than friends and what makes some of us say no after all David had many wives and look what he did with and to Bathsheba. And maybe that is what most of these commentaries miss. They want to place people in a simple category: gay or straight, black or white, good or evil. But the entire story of David tells us that life is messy, that people have moments of great good and also great evil, that God uses and loves deeply flawed people. So why does David have to be either Gay or straight? Why does he have to pick a side and stay there forever. I believe that sexuality is more nuanced then that. There are people that are totally gay or straight and there is a continuum in between where it is not black and white or clear cut. But we here in the US live in a culture that creates these clear divisions we want to label people and then we have them in a category that fits. David is gay, look at how he and Jonathan love each other. David is straight: it doesn't say they slept together and he has many wives and children, and the passion for Bathsheba. David is definitely straight.
The problem is life is messy. David both loved Jonathan and loved his wives (until they try to kill him). So may part of what we need to learn from David and Jonathan is to live in the messiness, to learn to accept people where they are and who there are without trying to place them in the categories we want them to fit in. Maybe what we are invited to do is learn to love them as God loves them, to see people as God sees them - Beloved Children.