The scandal! The shame! The disappointment! The heartbreak!
The woman you love more than anyone else in the world, the girl who promised herself to you in marriage, the one you can’t stop thinking and talking about as you make preparations for the big day and send out invitations to all your friends and family, takes you quietly to one side and says, “I’m pregnant”.
You know this baby isn’t yours, so suddenly you start to bombard her with questions; Who is the father? Who has she been with? When did this happen? Why did this happen? How long has this been going on? And she tells you; she has not had an affair but that she has miraculously conceived a child by God through the Holy Spirit.
How would you react? Her story seems so far fetched that it’s an insult to our intelligence. I imagine that should this happen to us, many would be quick to judge, to point the finger, to tell everyone of this woman and her ‘lies’. We cast out, name and shame, and if they are someone of notoriety, then the news would be sprawled across every newspaper and gossip magazine. But Joseph, even before the Angel appeared to him to tell him all that Mary had said was true, was quick to protect Mary from shame.
Joseph loved Mary, and although he could no longer marry her, he didn’t want her to be outcast and shamed and so he, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. (Matthew 1:19)
In light of recent events, I’m drawn back to Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies (Matthew 5v44). Love doesn’t mean we accept and condone what they’ve done and ignore it, but it means that love should be at the forefront of our response and reactions, with the aim to bring about reconciliation. Joseph’s reaction to the news was to divorce Mary and bring an end to the relationship, but his primary goal was to protect her from shame. His immediate response was one of love.
When people do us wrong, no matter who they are or what they did, we must learn to follow in Josephs example, to go first to that person and deal with the offence in private and in love.