David and Jonathan

I am always struck by the mild homo-erotic undertone in the relationship between David and Jonathan. There is talk of souls being bound together, the making of a covenant, and a kind of ceremonial disrobing (1 Sam 18:1-4). There is even kissing (20:41). This bromance was apparently more important to David than his relationships with women (2 Sam 1:26). I choose to use the term homo-erotic because I believe we do a disservice to the text, and a disservice to ourselves, if we gloss over possible responses we may have. I know I raise my eyebrow every time that I read these parts of the narrative. This may say more about homophobia in my own culture than it does about the text itself, but this too is part of why Scripture is so important for people of faith. It can shine light on parts of ourselves where we need to give attention.

I am part of a culture where things like racism, sexism, and homophobia are the norm, not the exception. It is a culture where human sexuality is a battle ground laced with minefields and all kinds of offensive ammunition on all sides. I know I would prefer a culture that allows sexuality to be a private matter, but I do not have to be reminded that silence is part of the problem. For reasons that are beyond understanding, people tend to experience things like sexuality (and gender) in a more complex way than tradition is comfortable with. Even king David experienced sexuality in a more complex way than his tradition was comfortable with. Remember Bathsheba? I would also point to his relationship with Jonathan, which, as far as we know, was not explicitly sexual, or even fundamentally erotic, but was certainly more than what we would call platonic.

Indeed, love is a more complicated emotion than tradition would like it to be. Tradition knows from experience that out of control love and sexuality have very real consequences, and not just unwanted pregnancies. Tradition wants to spare us from things like heartbreak, ill health, economic hardship, and social exclusion. Rules and norms are put into place for very good reasons, but they become hypocritical when they end up causing the things that they were designed to prevent. We often interpret many sayings of Jesus as valuing the spirit of the law over the letter of the law. The spirit of the law is to foster things like wholeness, health, prosperity, and community. We do well to remember this in both our zeal for tradition and in our critique of it.

Knowing God and the Point of Christian Faith

As a practicing Christian, I claim to know the living God. I certainly cannot know God fully, as only the Son can, but I do believe that years of prayer, study, and serving others (not necessarily in that order) have given me a small window into the infinite mind of God. Yet, I do find my own beliefs troubling. Prayer, study, and service mean very little in and of themselves. The fact that I do them, and have spent years doing them, does not increase my faith in and knowledge of God. The growth does not come through sheer force of will on my part. It is more like practicing my faith keeps me open and receptive to divine relationship. The idea of spiritual growth in itself may be misleading. It is not the point of Christian faith, but it is an added benefit.

So, what is the point? I have used the word relationship. Yet, this may also be a given. All human beings are, in a sense, in relationship with God through Jesus Christ whether they realize it or not. I do not believe that this relationship can be flat out rejected by the human party, or that the heavenly Father would ultimately choose to reject human beings, or choose to allow any to fall to a point beyond redemption. But we are allowed to fall, we are allowed to resist, and we are allowed to become lost. As to the permanence of this, we really will not know on this side of the resurrection. Yet, I do like to think that all the saints in heaven constantly petition for the return of all that are lost.

In light of this, seeking out the lost becomes an important Christian activity and perhaps the most important one. To not only join the saints in petition for the lost, but to become instruments of God’s redemption in this world, may indeed be the point of the Christian calling. But even this point has its limits. The redemptive work of Christ cannot be replaced or augmented by human effort. The point is to seek out the lost and join them in fellowship and solidarity and, in doing so, witness God in action. All of the prayer, study, and service in the world cannot replace this kind of first-hand God knowledge.