The Rev. Janice Ford, Rector
The Church of the Reconciliation (Episcopal)
By now most folks have heard that a professor at Harvard Divinity School has possession of a small scrap of papyrus with Coptic writing on it. The item has been examined by many experts, and it is generally agreed that it dates back to the 4th century A.D. The question at hand is what exactly does it say? A separate set of linguistic experts are debating the wording. Some think it refers to Jesus having a wife. Obviously, this possibility has many people buzzing. If the item is authentic, and what is written on it is also authentic, denominations that have maintained Jesus was a celibate, unmarried man will be scrambling to determine how best to deal with this sudden change in religious history.
The idea that clergy in these denominations should not be married is partially based upon their assumption that Jesus was never married. I must admit I never quite understood why Jesus’ marital status had any bearing on his ability to be our Savior. We believe that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. Scripture tells us precious little about the human side of Jesus, but logic, and what we know about being human dictate that Jesus undoubtedly experienced every emotion and physical manifestation as every other human being. Jesus slept. Jesus ate. Jesus prayed. Jesus laughed. Jesus cried. Jesus had good friends. Jesus went fishing. Jesus knew how to build things. Jesus read Scripture. Jesus went to the synagogue. Jesus got angry. And along with all of this, Jesus was the Son of God. Fully God. Somehow he managed to live being both human and divine.
So, why do we have difficulty with the concept of Jesus being married? Is it his chastity that we are concerned with? Human beings were created by God, and part of that creation included the blessing of physically coming together in love. In other words, God would not have created humans as sexual beings if God thought it was wrong for us to love one another in that way as married people.
It is no secret to theologians everywhere that, for many years, there was a definite split between mind, body and spirit. The body, or flesh, was considered sinful and weak. The mind and spirit were thought to be the only place where God could reside within us. Over the recent years, that mindset has begun to change, but it is a very slow process. The human body is neither “dirty,” “weak,” nor “sinful” unless we allow it to be. The same can be said about our minds and spirits. We make choices every day that determine the sacredness of all three aspects of our being.
So all of this begs these questions: would Jesus have loved us less if he had been married? Would Jesus not have died for us if he had been married? Would he not have risen on the third day if he had been married? I think not. God the Father made his Son fully human and fully divine for a reason. We can relate to Jesus in his humanity as well as in his divinity, and God the Father knew this would be true.
Having said all of this, I will admit that being a married priest (Episcopal) is not easy. My husband, son, and extended family are part of my ministry in the sense that they understand that my life is sometimes not my own. They need to be as flexible as I am regarding our time together, and that takes hard work and sacrifice. But then, nothing worth doing is ever easy. I am not the first to do it, and I will not be the last. We know that most of Jesus’ apostles were married—including Peter. Though we have no written record of it, we can assume that these men also had children. Being married and having children may have made it very difficult at times for these men to do the work Jesus entrusted to them, and it is possible they left their homes and families to the care of others, but that is a choice they made. They were not forced to leave that part of their lives behind. Being a married woman and mother has enhanced my service to God and others because it helps me to see life more fully.
If it is proven that Jesus did have a wife, he will still be the Son of God, our Savior. I will not love him less, or carry out the mission he left to his church with less fervor. Instead, I will rejoice in the knowledge that he, too, knew the joys and challenges of what it is to share his life with someone in the sacred covenant of marriage.
- Tuesday, 25 September 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Religion