By Rev. Kathryn Ray
The story of David and Jonathan is one of the great love stories of the Bible. The text tells us that, soon after they first met, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. They are thus, perhaps, the first known soulmates.
When I was doing background research for this sermon, as is my wont, a lot of articles that came up were debating whether or not we could see David and Jonathan as a gay couple. When we read these words of David that Jonathan’s love "surpassed the love of women," it does fire the imagination.
It’s important to remember that neither of these men would have claimed a sexual orientation. That understanding of human sexuality is alien to the text. And furthermore, marriage in this time was not what it is in our day and age. It wasn’t a union between lovers or soulmates. It was a property transfer, a formal arrangement to ensure and to safeguard the creation of children who would literally keep you alive in your old age and insure that you had a legacy.
But keeping in mind this distance between us and our text, I think I stand on solid, biblical ground when I say that the love between David and Jonathan was deep, true, and abiding.
When Jonathan’s father Saul realizes that the people favor David over him, Saul conspires to kill David. When David learns of this plot, he goes first to Jonathan and asks him for help. Jonathan responds, “Whatever you ask, I will do.” Jonathan conspires to help David escape his father, and the text reads that they kissed and swore a covenant to one another. Then they wept, with "David weeping the more." (I Samuel 20:41-42)
Cue Sermon Mixtape: "Say You'll Go" by Janelle Monaé
Not all loves are that love.
In a book that got her into a lot of trouble with the Catholic Church, Christian ethicist and religious sister, Dr. Margaret Farley reflects:
“Not all loves are good, though they are loves. There are wise loves and foolish, good loves and bad, true loves and mistaken loves. The question ultimately is, what is a right love, a good, just, and true love?” 
She says that, at least when it comes to ethics, “love is the problem, not the solution.”
Many of us, if not most, have experienced bad loves. Loves that hurt us, loves in which we hurt others. Loves that were not reciprocated, loves that got us in trouble.
Loving is perhaps the greatest enterprise of the human soul. To love is to be vulnerable, to open ourselves deeply to be uplifted, supported, and transformed. But it also opens us to be wounded and to wound.
So what is a good love?
Cue Sermon Mixtape: "Iowa" by Dar Williams
Dr. Farley says that a good love is a just love. A love rooted in justice. She offers many useful insights into what a just love looks like. I am going to explore just two of her insights here.
The first is that a good love follows the precept “Do no unjust harm.” We all do harm in our relationships of love, whether they last two months or a lifetime. We step on one another, we hurt one another.
But if I am habitually infringing upon your agency, or eroding your dignity, I am doing you unjust harm. If I am disregarding your voice, trying to control you, or insulting you, If I got you “trippin’, got you looking in the mirror different, thinking you’re flawed because I’m inconsistent,” (shout out to Cardi B) I am doing you unjust harm.
According to Scripture,
One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.” -2 Samuel 11:2-5
From there, we learn that Bathsheba had become pregnant. So David sends her husband to the front line of battle, into the fiercest fighting so that he will be killed, and then David marries Bathsheba. That’s some unjust harm.
Bathsheba never speaks in this story. As the wife of a soldier, she is in no position to refuse the advances of the king. That in and of itself is enough for this to be an unjust harm, even setting aside the murder of her husband. David lets his passion for Bathsheba override all other concerns for justice, dignity, and human well-being.
Bathsheba’s story echoes with all of the people who have raised up their voices in the Me Too movement. People who say they were pressured into sexual acts by those who wielded power over them. And some of the men accused said they had no idea that the victims had felt pressured. They thought the relationship was mutual, because they didn’t understand the power that they wielded.
All of our loves are bound up in relationships of power. This is something queer thought has taught us, from the dense philosophy of Michel Foucault to the music of Janelle Monaé.
I may not be a king, but I do have power, and so do you. If you are educated, you have power. If you identify as male in this society, you have power. If someone loves you, you have power. You have power to heal or to hurt. Just love requires using that power responsibly.
Cue Sermon Mixtape: "The Shape I Found You In" by Girlyman
“Do no unjust harm.”
I would also invite you to apply that ethic to yourself. In loving someone else, do no unjust harm to yourself.
Love so often does not lead us to places of joy and mutual support. It can also lead us to places of bitterness and to despair. It can keep us in relationships long after we recognize that they are harmful or even abusive.
If you are in or have been in one of these relationships and find it difficult to leave, that does not mean you are weak or a coward. You really can be joined by a bond of love to someone who does not reciprocate. But if it is a love that is doing unjust harm, it is not a good love.
Do yourself no unjust harm.
Cue Sermon Mixtape: "Brand New Me" by Alicia Keys
Margaret Farley’s second insight that I would like to share is that a good love bears fruit. Traditionally, the mandate to bear fruit refers to procreation. As I said before, in the era of David, Jonathan, Bathsheba, and Michal, children were essential for ensuring survival. Simply staying alive was hard work, and you needed children to help you do it.
Procreation is not essential the way it once was, but fruitfulness still is. Good love gives life beyond itself. Good love breeds fruits of the Spirit, like joy, peace, and patience. Good love helps us be better people, which makes us into better communities.
After Jonathan dies, David’s covenant with him does not end. David’s love for Jonathan leads him to continue to honor his family, even though they also happen to be the family of Saul, who had repeatedly tried to kill David.
David’s love leads him to ask the question, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
And so he seeks out Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, who was unable to walk. Mephibosheth, incidentally, means “from the mouth of shame.” David takes this child from the mouth of shame into his house, and cares for him all his days.
In this care, we see the fruitfulness of David’s love for Jonathan. The legacy of David and Jonathan’s love outlasts the terror and violence of Saul, which drove them apart. And I think it is in this quality of fruitfulness that we can truly understand what it means when we say that God is love.
Love can be exploited. Love can be bad. Love can hurt. Yet good love- divine love- bears the fruits of justice, peace, and righteousness. That is the love that transforms the world.
Cue Sermon Mixtape: Superpower by Beyoncé
This is the love that leads us to wield our power with the utmost responsibility, because we know that every soul is sacred and every soul is worthy of love, including our own. This is the love that drives out fear, even when hate surrounds us.
When we love with a just love, we abide in a God who is love.
Cue Sermon Mixtape: Q.U.E.E.N. by Janelle Monaé
*A special shout out to Erika Alexander and Joss Whedon, whose Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Giles comic book miniseries inspired the incorporation of a mixtape into this piece.
 Janelle Monaé. “Say You’ll Go.” The ArchAndroid. Wondaland Studios, 2010.
 Margaret A. Farley. Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2008), pp. 196-197.
 Margaret A. Farley. Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2008), pp. 196.
 Dar Williams. “Iowa.”Many Great Companions. Razor & Tie, 2010.
 Cardi B.“Be Careful.” Invasion of Privacy. Atlantic Records, 2018.
 Girlyman. “The Shape I Found You In.” Remember Who I Am. Daemon Records, 2003.
 Alicia Keys. “Brand New Me.” Girl on Fire. RCA Records, 2012.
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. “Superpower.” Beyoncé. Columbia/Parkwood Entertainment, 2013.
 Janelle Monaé. “Q.U.E.E.N.” The Electric Lady. Bad Boy Records, 2013.