David and Jonathan – What kind of love?

(supplemental  to the current preaching series, Sex in a Broken World, from 1 Corinthians 5-7. Audio sermons  available here.)

Were Ruth and Naomi, the centurion and his servant, David and Jonathan, and the Ethiopian eunuch all homosexual or bi-sexual?  One of the more creative efforts is to discover relationships in the Bible narrative that must have been homosexual and are seen positively; thus the conclusion – The Bible endorses loving committed homosexual relationships and God blessed them.  Is that true? Let’s take a look.

Ruth and Naomi – They were two widows, lost and alone in the world.  They loved each other as mother and daughter. They joined their lives for survival and concern for the well-being of the other.

Ruth’s choice to go with Naomi gives us this powerful statement of commitment –

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. Ruth 1:16, 17 

What happened here?

It’s not complicated.  Ruth, a Moabite, has converted to follow YAHWEH, the God of Israel.

Lesbian lovers?  Absurd!  In fact, Naomi devoted herself to counseling Ruth to find a godly husband, resulting in her marriage to Boaz.

This is a great double love story – the love of two women for each other as mother and daughter; and the love of a man and a woman who are joined together in marriage.

The Centurion and his servant – One of the great miracle accounts of the Gospels recorded in Matthew 8:5-13, is the healing of the servant of a Centurion in which Jesus commends the Centurion for his faith, I’ve not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. NIV. Nary a hint of anything sexual here.  It is true that it was fairly common Roman practice for citizens to use slaves or young boys for sexual pleasure, but in such cases it was not consensual and would be in the category of rape or child sex abuse; a great evil for which Jesus would have had no tolerance.  But nothing in this passage hints to any of this.

The Ethiopian eunuch – Without substantiation, the argument is being made that eunuchs are of some other sexual orientation, homosexual, bi-sexual or something else.  And Jesus’ statement about eunuchs is marshaled for support of  genetic orientation.  For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:12

It’s perilous to say for sure what Jesus meant by “born that way,” but the most likely explanation is some kind of physical abnormality, perhaps in-differentiated, the inability to determine if the child is male or female because of underdevelopment or the rare case of both male and female genitalia in evidence. But the idea of orientation toward homosexuality is not indicated. Those surgically made eunuchs were most likely cut against their wills.  Those who “renounced marriage” did it for a spiritual reason, a decision to be celibate, without indication of a different orientation.

David and Jonathan – This one is the most fascinating because of the western way of reading David’s expression of grief upon learning of Jonathan’s death.

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.  2 Samuel 1:26

What does David mean here?  The story of David and Jonathan is a wonderful story of friendship.  They became relationally bound as brothers, even closer than brothers.  They risked their lives for each other.  They truly loved each other.  Does that mean their relationship was sexual?  If so, then David was certainly bi-sexual for his numerous wives and children prove he was not exclusively homosexual. But again, it is looking for what is simply not there.

Can’t men be very close to each other and love each other without a sexual component?

I give my own testimony. There are a few men in my life with whom I share very openly, pray for regularly, and would trust with my very life.  I am unembarrassed to say that I love them, though I don’t commonly say “I love you!” to other men except for my son.

And it is because we are men, without the sexual connotations and temptations of male/female friendships that we can be such close friends.  I wouldn’t trust myself with that kind of close friendship with a woman. It would be too dangerous. That is reserved for my wife alone!

But what about David’s comment, Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women? 

Doesn’t that sound like  a sexual connotation?  It may sound that way to western ears, but it’s not there. It is clearly contrasting the sexual love he has for women with his non-sexual love for a brother. Precisely because David was polygamous against God’s creation design, he could not have had the kind of true marital intimacy that is only possible in a one man/one woman relationship.

But apart from the baggage of his dysfunctional marriages, David had a very close relationship, a wonderful friendshp with Jonathan, a model for what men need with each other today.

But it’s not sexual. You won’t find any examples in the Bible that support homosexual behavior.  It is uniformly condemned.

For more detail on the relationship of David and Jonathan or any other Bible questions about homosexuality, I recommend the work of Dr. Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual PracticeMuch of Dr. Gagnon’s excellent work can also be found on his website http://www.robgagnon.net/  Don’t let the bow tie and the dated look of this site deter you from his excellent material.

 

 

 

 

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