On marriage for priests.

There is heated debate these days on whether Catholic priests should be allowed to marry. Some priests have felt so strongly that they should be able to marry that they have left the Catholic church and become Episcopal or Lutheran. All Protestant denominations allow their ministers to marry, but these are the closest in ritual to Catholicism.

So, let us look at examples from the Bible, so that we don’t rely upon our own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5) Christians learned about God from the Jews, so it is fitting to look at the Hebrew Testament to see what Jews understood was God’s plan for their priests. Their traditions became the blueprint that the early Christian church started with.

The rules for what renders a person fit to be a priest are in Leviticus.  Among rules such as not touching a dead body except that of a close family member and not shaving the edge of his beard, we find these specific rules about who they aren’t allowed to marry –

They are not to marry a woman defiled by prostitution. They are not to marry one divorced by her husband, for the priest is holy to his God.” (Leviticus 21:7)

By spelling this out, we know that there are allowed to marry other people.

Then there are instructions about their daughters in 21:9.   We can logically infer from this that the daughter was legitimately conceived – hence the priest was married.

Verses 13-15 give more information as to who a priest is allowed to marry.   13 “He is to marry a woman who is a virgin. 14 He is not to marry a widow, a divorced woman, or one defiled by prostitution. He is to marry a virgin from his own people, 15 so that he does not corrupt his bloodline among his people, for I am Yahweh who sets him apart.”

This further proves that priests are allowed to marry.  Why say who they can and can’t marry if they aren’t allowed to?  Thus, marriage is appropriate and allowed for priests in Judaism.

These instructions are repeated and added to later in Ezekial 44:22.    “He is not to marry a widow or a divorced woman, but must marry a virgin from the offspring of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest.”

God does not want us to be alone.  It isn’t part of God’s plan for us. In Genesis 2:18 we read 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.”

One of Jesus’s early miracles was healing the mother-in-law of Simon Peter.  From this we must conclude that he was married – he wouldn’t have a mother-in-law otherwise.  Remember this is the person that Jesus built his entire Church upon (See Matthew 16:18).  He wouldn’t have chosen someone for so important a role that was doing something he thought was wrong.

“As soon as they left the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus and the disciples went into Simon Peter’s house. His mother-in-law was in bed with a high fever. They asked Jesus to help her. He went to her, and taking her by the hand, he rebuked the fever. Immediately she was healed and she began to wait on them. Later that evening, people began bringing those who were sick and possessed to him. He healed them by laying his hands on them and he drove out demons with a word. Those who were possessed had demons who were shouting “You are the Son of God!” But he told them not to speak because it wasn’t time yet for this to be known. What was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled with his actions. “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Isaiah 53:4)”  (MT 8:14-17, MK 1:29-34, LK 4:38-41   Condensed Gospel)

Paul, in giving instructions to Titus, says in Titus 1:5-9
“5 This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you, 6 if any man is blameless, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of being profligate or insubordinate. 7 For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy, and self-controlled; 9 he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it.”

These elders become bishops – leaders over others. They are allowed to marry – but only once. But they are allowed to marry.

But – all of this is irrelevant.  Jesus didn’t want priests to be different from the congregation.  He wanted us to all be equal, like brothers.  To have any group of people separate from the rest of the Body of Christ is to go against Christ’s teaching.

Luke 22:24-27   24 Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. 25 But He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’26 But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving. 27 For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Isn’t it the one at the table? But I am among you as the One who serves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(All Bible translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible unless otherwise noted)

Values

I know a couple where the husband said to the wife that they have to make a certain amount of money a year. It is a very high amount. They have only one child and live in an apartment.

Meanwhile, the wife is miserable, stuck at a job that she hates, where her manager is abusive to her. She is so stressed out that she has begun pulling out her hair. Doctors have put her on anti-anxiety medicine, but it isn’t helping because it is treating the symptom, not the disease.

I believe that the husband has his priorities wrong. It isn’t about money at all, and it never should be. If his wife is so miserable that it is affecting her health, then something has to change. They need to evaluate everything that they are spending money on and how much money is coming in. Perhaps he needs to get a second job. Perhaps they can trade out a car for a cheaper one. Perhaps they can move back in with a parent.

But there is no reason that a spouse should ever put money before the health of their spouse. No money is worth more than your spouse.

My husband was very stressed out recently about extra responsibilities with his job. This is a new job, but suddenly he is being expected to do things that he did not sign up for and is not trained in. He wants to do well, but these added expectations are not reasonable. It was obviously very overwhelming to him.

I chose to play the biggest card and speak of my fears. I told him a story that I’d just read about a woman whose husband was very stressed out over his job. He was so anxious over all that was going on that he had constant pains in his stomach (the stomach and the head are the most common sites for stress to manifest). Doctors, as usual, gave him medicine to treat his stomach pains but did not advise him to seek help about his job. She woke up one night to discover that he’d killed himself while she slept.

I told my husband that I don’t want to live through that. No job is worth that kind of stress. If his boss got angry that he wasn’t able to do what he expected him to do – a duty that was not on the list of expected tasks when he was hired – then perhaps he needs to find a new job. We can make do. We will work it out. We have before. But his health is worth more than money.

Don’t ever put money before your spouse. Remember “forsaking all others” as part of the vow? It normally refers to intimacy – that we promise to only be intimate with our spouse. But I take it to also mean that their well-being should be seen as important and valuable.

It doesn’t make sense if you have a lot of money but your spouse is miserable. It doesn’t make sense to demand that your spouse work at a place that is harmful to their well-being. Even if that man’s wife doesn’t kill herself from the stress, she’s living a half-life already because of it. It is not right for him to demand that. But this is her battle to fight. If he cannot see that, then she must speak up for herself.

In sickness and in health

I know a lady who said that she had to get divorced from her husband because he was schizophrenic. I know another who said that she had to get divorced because her husband was an alcoholic. Neither husband was these things when they got married. They became this way after. They changed.

These are not acceptable reasons for divorce. What part of the vow that you will stay with each other “in sickness and in health” did they not get? When you marry it is a package deal. You don’t get to choose “health” or “richer”. Sometimes it is “sickness” and “poorer”.

When you marry it is for life. It is not something that is only when everything is working out fine. It means you’re going to stick with that person no matter what. Marriage isn’t easy.

I wonder what those women would have thought if the shoe was on the other foot? What if they were the ones to develop a severe and difficult form of mental illness? What if they were the ones to fall into addiction? Her bad situation would suddenly get worse because her spouse – the person who had sworn to be by her side through thick and thin – had left.

If you are not willing to stay with someone regardless of how things evolve, of how they change (and change is part of life), then do not get married.

Starter marriages

So many people seem to have starter marriages, the same way that people will get starter homes. When you have a starter home, you have it with the idea that when things change, you accumulate too much stuff, or when you have a child, you’ll get a bigger home. It’s what you can handle and afford at the time but you understand that you could always sell it and get another one.

People have marriages in the same way these days. When they get to be too big or too much they get divorced and move on.

What about the marriage vows? What about the idea on ‘till death do us part’? What about ‘for richer or for poorer’? What about ‘in sickness and in health’? Maybe people can’t handle the “poorer and sickness” parts, and were hoping they’d luck out and get the “richer and healthy” part. It is a package deal, and a crapshoot. You get both, in unequal proportions.

These vows – which are made in front of friends and family and sometimes a minister – don’t seem to mean anything anymore. These are legally binding vows. There’s a document that is signed for the state as well. This is a legal contract.

Perhaps what people mean is that they say “I’ll stick with you as long as things are good. I’ll stick with you as long as you suit my purposes. I’ll stick with you as long as I like you.”

Marriages aren’t about convenience or comfort. Marriages are about committing for the long haul. The other person may drive you completely up the wall but that doesn’t mean that you get to get divorced. The bliss that you have at the beginning of your marriage doesn’t last long. What do you do after that fades?

I’m not quite sure about people who get divorces. Now if you’re on the receiving end of a divorce that’s different. If your spouse initiates it and will not reconcile you don’t have much of a choice. But if you initiate then what do your vows really mean? How can you be trusted to say you’ll do anything? If you can’t honor your wedding vow, then why can you be trusted at work? Why trust you with a home loan? What does your word mean?

Marriage is kind of like buying a present with someone and you’re drawn to the pretty wrapping paper. But once you open the box and start looking inside, you realize that it’s a machine that has a bunch of pieces. They are all jumbled loose in the box, and there’s no instruction manual. You have to figure out how to put it together along with the other person. You both are pulling out pieces and you’re wondering how they go together to make this machine work, this machine called marriage. Since you both come from different backgrounds you both have different ideas about what parts go where and what parts are more important than other ones. But you still both have to work on this thing to make it go. You can’t just throw it away once it gets difficult. You can’t just keep looking at the pretty wrapping paper and wondering why it doesn’t match this difficult thing that is on the inside.

Thoughts about taking care of a marriage.

I’ve realized that building up a marriage is a lot like building up your immune system. If I’m not getting enough sleep or eating well, my immune system gets low, and I’ll catch any cold. If I take care of myself, then I don’t get sick.

Showing love and care for your spouse builds up your marriage immune system too. Showing attention, saying thank you, being thoughtful -they all build up the “bank”. That way, when there is a bad day, everything doesn’t come crashing down.

If you make deposits into your marriage bank, then when something big happens, your spouse can draw on that and come out fine. If the bank is empty, your marriage is in danger.

All the things you did when you were dating are all the things you should do when you are married. The number of years married makes no difference. Perhaps that is part of the “seven year itch”. You are used to each other, and you start to take each other for granted. So you slide a little, and then you discover that you just don’t care about each other as much. You don’t care, because you don’t “take care”. You have to tend a marriage, like you tend a garden. If you don’t work on it, it gets overgrown and ugly.

Just like a bank, you have to make “deposits” – make special breakfasts for each other, give cards for no special reason, come to visit at work, do an extra chore – it doesn’t have to be things. In fact, you are probably better off if you don’t buy things. You want to show them that you are thinking about them.

Thoughts about The Nativity story.

There are a few issues with the story of the Nativity that happens in Matthew and then follows in Luke. Let us look at the original to start off with. This is the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation.

Matthew 1:18-25
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.
20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.”
24 When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.

Notice anything that didn’t synch up? The name isn’t the same.

Here’s the footnote to Matthew 1:21 from HCSB – “Jesus is the Gk form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which equals “The LORD saves” or “Yahweh saves.””

This makes the angel’s comment in line 21 “…because He will save His people from their sins” make sense. His name is his job description.

But then the prophecy by Isaiah says that they will name him Immanuel, which is translated as “God is with us.”

Which one is it? Jesus (Joshua, Yeshua), meaning “the Lord saves” (The Lord being Yahweh), or is it Immanuel, meaning “God is with us”?

Maybe it is a little of both. God saves us by being with us. God lets us know that we aren’t alone. God isn’t “up there”. God cares so much about us that God came down here to be among us and save us from our fear and loneliness. Our God is a hands-on kind of God. Our God isn’t like a CEO or upper management. Our God knows what we are being asked to do, because our God has done it with us. Our God knows how hard life is here in these bodies with their faults and limitations. Our God knows because our God has lived it with us.

Now, this is a poetic interpretation. It sounds good, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

Is the prophecy fulfilled or not? He wasn’t named Immanuel, and he wasn’t named with the same meaning.

Then there is another problem. Are they married or not? The story continues in Luke 2:1-7. This too is from the HCSB translation.

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. 2 This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.
4 And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, 5 to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.”

Note line 5. She was engaged to him. Not his wife. In Matthew 1:24, he married her after the angel talked to him. She hadn’t given birth yet. The story of the birth happens only in Luke, and there she is listed as being engaged, not married.

It is important to read carefully and question everything. If things don’t match up, ask why.

On divorce

Jesus left Galilee and went across the Jordan to the region of Judea. Large crowds followed him and he healed and taught them as he normally did. Some Pharisees came up to him to test him. They asked “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?”

MT 19:1-3, MK 10:1-2

He replied, “Surely you have read that in the beginning, God made people male and female, and God said ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. So they are no longer two separate people, but one being. What God has put together, we should not separate.”

MT 19:4-6, MK 10:6-9

“Why then,” they asked him, “did Moses tell us that whoever divorces his wife must give her divorce papers and send her away?”

MT 5:31, MT 19:7, MK 10:3-4

Jesus answered “Moses wrote that rule because people have hard hearts. But this is not what God intended.”

MT 19:8, MK 10:5

“I tell you that any man who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And if a person divorces their spouse and marries another person, they commit adultery. Everyone who marries a divorced woman is also guilty of adultery.

LK 16:18, MT 19:9, MT 5:32, MK 10:11

His disciples said “If being married is like this then it’s better not to marry!”

But Jesus said “This teaching is not for everyone but only to those who it is meant for. There are eunuchs who were that way at birth, there are eunuchs who were created by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this teaching who able to.”

MT 19:10-12