David asked, ‘Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?’ (2 Sam 9)
I thought I knew this story of David and Johnathon and Saul, but the (C of E) daily prayer lectionary has caught me off guard again. You know the broad brush strokes: At first we have Saul, loved by God, and chosen to be King. Then David comes along, and is loved by both Saul and Saul’s son’s Johnathon. But as David and Jonathon grow up and Saul grows old, Saul gets suspicious. God’s favour rests on David, and God (terribly) abandons Saul. Saul’s jealousy leads to madness, and he ends up waging war against young David whom he loved. But David and Johnathon’s love proves different: it binds them through war and betrayal, and ultimately beyond death. So, todays’ passage, ‘is there anyone left to whom I can show kindness for Jonathon’s sake?’ evokes both pain and love instantly.
But it’s what happens next that is interesting. There is one person left to whom David can show love: Jonathon’s son Mephibosheth, who is crippled. David takes the boy, who is lame in both feet, and restores all of Saul’s land and wealth to him. David takes on his servants, and tells them to till the land for Mephibosheth’s sake, so there will always be food for him — and for the servants. And then he makes Mephibosheth a part of his household so that Mephibosheth for ever eats at David’s table and is raised as his son. Because David loved Johnathon he learned to welcome his son.
So what? you say. David took on Jonathon’s son. I grant, it’s not earth shattering put like that. But remember: Mephibosheth was crippled; lame in both his feet. And just chapters before, we read this:
David… said on that day, ‘Whoever wishes to strike down the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those whom David hates.’
So, David’s love for Johnathon leads him not only to take on Jonathon’s son, but to change his mind: the crippled boy becomes part of his family. One whom he loves. The lame and the blind sit down together to eat.
And no doubt some said it was an abomination: The crippled cannot be given land and status. They cannot be loved and treated as equals. You can see the sign of their sins in the flesh. Everyone knows they are sick and need to be cured. And unless they are cured, they are defective, defiled. Accursed.
Well, David had thought so too, till love taught him better.
You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?
There have been lots of conversations over the past few weeks about how Christians should understand homosexuality. Prejudices, assumptions and bible verses mix, for good and for ill. For salvation and destruction.
I do believe that we can take scripture seriously and affirm and bless committed, faithful relationships between people of the same gender. And we could sit down and read scripture together so that I could show you why I think that.
But I wonder if any of us really change our minds first by looking at scripture. Or does it always happen as it did for David, when we find that we love someone who shatters our expectations and opens our eyes to something new?