"But, dude, they were gay."
That was the response from a young collegiate after I shared a devotional on David and Jonathan with a group of Christian college men years ago. Such was the firestorm that followed. Several guys approached me asking why I would argue that Christian men take a page from David and Jonathan. "They were gay," these guys said.
"Were they?" I responded. "Where in the story do you see that?" They pointed out part of the passage from which I'd been teaching – “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Sam. 18:1-5) – and stated that there must be some homosexual context.
I've consistently encountered such misunderstanding, as well as bold-faced attempts to hijack David and Jonathan for the sake of normalizing (and wrongly biblicizing) homosexual relationships. There are literally books on the subject. These allegations are based on a cursory reading of the Bible's description of David and Jonathan being characterized by "love,” a knitting of souls and their making of covenant with each other.
But there are few better examples of biblical truth colliding against modern cultural views than in Jonathan's love for David. Their relationship defied social norms and carried political ramifications – but not in a homosexual manner.
These were two faithful men concerned for God's good and well versed in the Scriptures. They loved God's law and plan for relationships. To force a homosexual explanation upon Jonathan and David ignores everything we know of them.
If you choose to hang your ideological hat on the use of the word "love," know that the exact same word (in Hebrew and English) is used to describe all of Israel and Judah's love for David (1 Sam.18:16). Was the entire nation involved in some romantic tryst with David? Certainly not.
Just verses later, the same word describes the feelings of David's wife toward him. There are ambiguities and nuances with the Hebrew word ahab (love) as much as there are in our English interpretations of the word "love.” It doesn't always refer to eros. To force it upon David and Jonathan isn't true to the text or intent.
As for David and Jonathan themselves, a godly friendship and more are on display. Just not the "more" that homosexual agendas would have you think.
Jonathan, King Saul's own son and warrior prince of Israel, seems the most likely and right choice to assume the throne of Israel after his father. But Jonathan is aware at the time of their meeting that David is God's choice to be king. Jonathan's response is not one of suspicion but of spiritual unity. He heard David recount God's power to slay the giant Goliath. Upon David's testimony of this battle, Jonathan's spirit was attached ("knit") to David's in alliance, and they felt they were one – spiritual brothers under the heavenly King.
Such selflessness and spiritual friendship is impossible apart from God's irrevocably changing a heart. Homosexuality is not about the selfless love on display in David and Jonathan, but is at its core a lust concerned with worshiping the form of someone who mirrors yourself in body and form.
David and Jonathan show us that redeemed men don't need sex to relate to one another. Apart from laying down our prizes and armaments before God's choice King, not one of us can ever hold fast to what is good, nor love each other with brotherly affection and outdo one another in honor (Rom. 12:9-10). It is the common bond of Jesus Christ that can alone lead men to genuine love.
Read on in 1 Samuel to see the truth behind David and Jonathan and how their relationship played out. They had an honorable, intimate and God-revering friendship centered not on themselves but on the God who keeps covenant with those who love Him and keep His commands.
If homoerotic overtones are to be the new norm applied to male friendships and affection in this young century, we men of God need the godly truth about David and Jonathan to stand in stark contrast against a sexually misguided and increasingly corrupted cultural view of male relationships.