As Yourself (1 Samuel 20:17)

Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.

1 Samuel 20:17

I’ve heard people comment on the relationship between David and Jonathan. Some have some very lovely things to say while others are leveling some rather serious accusations. This morning, I read over two or more verses that talked about Jonathan’s love for David.

There have been rare occasions when I have found friends that I was able to love in a way that approached the way I care about myself. I wanted only good things for them and was not jealous of the blessings in their lives. It has been an exceptionally rare occurrence. But Jonathan and David had this sort of love for one another. At least, Jonathan did. 1 Samuel 18:1 says that Jonathan loved David as himself.

I know that there are folks who read the relationship of Jonathan and David and see something sexual or homoerotic in there. These folks are missing the point. Leviticus 19:18 and 19:34 both issue the command to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus would say that to love my neighbor as myself is the second half of summarizing the entire Law and prophets. What is being said of Jonathan is not homoerotic or sexual, but the second highest achievement of obedience. He has managed to love someone as he loves himself. We cheapen Jonathan’s obedience to God’s command when we look at it and say that it is because of something sexual or homoerotic. And, possibly, we seek to excuse our own failure to obey the command that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Essentially, we accuse Jonathan of sin (homosexuality is definitely verboten for him) in order to let ourselves off the hook. Otherwise, we would have to face the fact that his love for David is an example of how we are commanded to love our neighbor. And that makes us uncomfortable.

Two things for me today. One, I need to restrict myself to what’s on the page. No imposing interpretations that aren’t there. No reading historical societies by modern social norms. Just take what’s there in context and, if something seems a little odd, check it against the sum total of scripture. Two, I need to love my neighbor as myself. This morning, that takes the form of rewriting sections of this entry (five or twelve times each) in order to try to speak the truth in love. I know that I’m guilty of trying to read things to my advantage and I can hardly throw stones at others who do the same. But I can point out as gently and lovingly as possible that we’re doing it and pray that we correct our errors. I know that I seek to try to excuse my wrongdoing and do not blame others for doing the same, but call them to come with me and repent of our mutual wrong in trying to excuse ourselves or people we care about instead of vindicating God. Jonathan loved David enough to seek out the painful and almost deadly truth. I need to be willing to do the same.

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