Jesus was not required by law – either governmental or religious – to marry. And, though he was in many ways a normal Jewish man (see Chapter 2 of my book Jesus Revealed), in others ways he was utterly unusual. If, when he reached the age at which young men in his day married, Jesus and his family realized that he had a special calling which would make marriage quite difficult, then he could surely have remained single. Yes, this would have been perceived as an unusual, even a counter-cultural choice. But then Jesus never shied away from the unusual or counter-cultural, especially when it came to his relationships with women.~ Mark D. Roberts, Was Jesus Married? A Careful Look at the Real Evidence
When I was a religion reporter, going to work usually felt like walking into a war zone. I loved most of my colleagues, and I adored many of my sources, but the commentary, bickering and posturing of atheists vs. agnostics vs. Christians vs. Muslims just made me nauseous on a daily basis. Some of this has to do with the fact that I think our respective beliefs about God are our business and no one else’s. The other part has to do with the fact that I was allergic to confrontation.
So while I’m hesitant to venture into theological territory, I have been trying to figure out why it matters whether or not Jesus was married. A devoutly religious friend suggested that it’s important because it raises questions about how Jesus related to the church as his bride if in fact he had a real one, for instance.
Regardless of what you think about religion, organized or otherwise, it seems important to trace the origins of our attitudes about single life back to their source. The other thing about looking back at historical narratives is that it reminds us that we’re not reinventing the wheel or saying something that has never been said before. It’s humbling, especially since this writer loves to feel like she’s really creating something new all the time, but there’s not really anything new in creation.
Anyway, I love studying Jesus’ life in the same way I’ve studied other historical spiritual figures, like the Buddha. As a single man who changed the world, and offered salvation for believers, I wonder how he coped – even with faith, living the single life can be exhausting and harrowing. I think it’s interesting that churches and religious organizations outside of Buddhism never talk much about what it means that Jesus may have even been called to be single.
While some say we are supposed to aspire to be like Jesus, it stops at this particular point. Is it because people read into Scripture what they prefer to see than emphasize the parts they dislike? I wonder if that lack of conversation has at least in part contributed to the declining membership in Christian churches. What I’ve often felt in church, as much as it moves me and I miss the community of belonging to a place, I have often felt judged and singled out for being unmarried in my thirties.
But as far as we know, Jesus was single. Paul was the same. He said that if you can’t find someone to marry, be engaged in who you are in the moment and in the world. I strive for that kind of clarity and compassion – for myself and for others.