According to some second-century sources Jesus was married with Mary of Magdala. We read this, for instance, in the gnostic gospel of Philip. There is hardly any reason to regard this document as containing reliable historic information. If Dan Brown had not referred to it in his Da Vinci Code, this ‘marriage’ of Jesus would not have received much attention. It is very likely that some of Jesus’ disciples were married. We know for sure that this was the case for Peter, since the Bible tells us about his mother-in-law. However, there is no reason to suppose that Jesus and Mary of Magdala were an ‘item’.
I would like to suggest, however, that Jesus was gay. This may seem a daring–and for some probably a somewhat blasphemous—idea. Yet, I believe there is good reason to say this.
My conclusion is based in Matthew 25. There we read how Jesus in the final judgment does not interrogate us about our doctrinal purity, but rather confronts us with the question how we have treated people who were in difficulties, and men and women in the margin. Jesus commends certain people because they have visited him in prison, or because they gave him a meal and provided him with a roof over his head. They respond: “Lord, you are mistaken, we did not find you in such circumstances’. But Jesus replies: ‘Yes, but in fact, you did. For you cared about those who were in trouble and I count this as if you did this for me!’ In other words: He tells us that we are to see his face in every fellow-human being in the margin of society.
This is full of actuality in a time when many thousands of refugees enter our country. We cannot deny that this causes many problems. The politicians debate various possible reactions. The responsible agencies struggle with the logistics. However, for followers of Christ the issue in, in fact, quite simple. We must see Jesus in the face of every Syrian man, woman or child who crosses our path. One day Jesus will tell us: ‘I was that Syrian refugee you helped. Thank you!’
This week, once again, I was confronted with another category of people—outside but also inside our Adventist faith community: with those who continue to face enormous challenges. I was invited as a speaker by one of the German regional organizations of the Adventist Church. I was to give two lectures about aspects of homosexuality. I realize I can hardly call myself an expert in this field, but I am prepared to share my views on this issue. Besides the thirty or so pastors, an Adventist gay man and an Adventist lesbian woman had been invited to share their life story. Several pastors also told of their pastoral experiences in working with homosexual people. All together it was a fascinating and emotional experience to participate in this Hamburg meeting. I probably learned more myself from being there than others may have learned from my presentations. I travelled home with the sense: This was not about some abstract ‘problem’, or about theology and Bible passages. This was about people—men and women who often have to go through a deep and dark valley. How can we, as a faith community, ensure that these people can find a ‘safe place’ in our faith community?
When one day (see again Matthew 25) Christ says to me: ‘I was gay, and you ignored me,’ I may respond: ‘Lord, I never met you as a gay person.’ But then Jesus will reply: ‘O yes. I was gay—and you met me in those men and women with a different sexual orientation and you ignored me.’
Over the last decade or so I have come to the conclusion that there is sufficient biblical, theological and ethical ground to warmly welcome homosexual fellow-believers in my church, and to accord tham all the rights and privileges that I myself enjoy. This does not mean that I have a definitive and satisfying explanation for all relevant Bible texts. My own opinion is still ‘work in progress’. But I hope that one day Jesus will say to me: ‘Thank you, that you saw me and accepted me, when I met you in that man or woman who was different. Yes, I was not only the asylum seeking whom you assisted, but I was also that gay person—and you accepted me. Thank you! Come in. You have a place in my kingdom!’