"And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly." Matthew 1:19
I thought of this verse last night. And I thought of how Joseph was a "righteous man" who planned to dismiss Mary quietly.*
If I had been in Joseph's position ... I don't think I would have dismissed her quietly. I think I would have made a public spectacle out of her because she had wronged me so greatly. I think a lot of us would respond that way. A lot of people do respond that way. And that's not right. As Jesus would later say, we should pray for our enemies, showing love to those who do us wrong instead of seeking to condemn them. Now, sure, I'm getting very very slightly better with my impatience / anger as I grow in God's ways, but I still have a LONG way to go with that. I don't actively seek condemnation like I used to, but then again, I've never been cheated on, and I think it's reasonable to assume that being cheated on hurts, badly. And I would most likely want to get back at the person who had done it. But we can learn something very valuable from the example set by Joseph here. For two reasons, now that I think about it. One reason is that Joseph had assumed she cheated, when she hadn't. We probably shouldn't just assume the worst about people. But the second, and most important reason, is that even when we're proven right about somebody's malicious intentions, and they have genuinely hurt us, even to our very core, we should still try to do the right thing. Not "right" by our own subjective, emotionally-driven impulses, but objectively right. Praying, remaining civil, showing love. The kind of peace required to decide to dismiss one's own (supposed) adulterer in a private and respectful way, actively not wanting to shame them in the public eye, is just admirable to me, and especially considering I just got done writing an admittedly very impatient comment to somebody online, provides something I really, truly think we should try to keep in mind in our lives -- especially given how tense the overall climate of society is right now. There are a bunch of extremely obnoxious people out there whose opinions differ from yours, and they will vocalize these disagreements in the noisiest, most irrational, mind-numbing ways possible. There are people out there who just don't care how you feel, and will mistreat you if they can benefit from it in some way. And I know, I know that of all people, I have no place to be talking about this given that I'm still not a very patient person, but it's a lesson I'm learning alongside all of you. God is patient with us, and God loved us when we lived in our old ways, and God still loves us today as we're learning to be righteous, and continue to mess up all the time and ask for forgiveness. Thus, this is also how we should try to be with others. Let's continue looking to God, and try to reach a point in our own lives where we could be deeply in love with someone, to the point we actually want to marry them and spend the rest of our lives with them, only to have that person go behind our backs and get pregnant with someone else ........... and then to stare directly into the eyes of that person, amid all the heartbreak they have caused us, and still have love for them, and use the situation as an opportunity to set a God-like example in the world.
May God bless all of us, and guide us according to His perfect will! In Jesus' name. Amen.
*For those who don't know the story of Jesus' birth, here's some quick context for this verse: Mary was the mother of Jesus. The prophets had said (hundreds of years earlier!) that Jesus, the Messiah, was supposed to be born from a virgin. So, God caused Mary to be pregnant without losing her virginity -- this was a miracle, and a sign that the Messiah was on the way. However Joseph had not been told that the baby was the Messiah yet, so when he saw Mary was pregnant, he just figured Mary had cheated on him. But instead of getting revenge on her for cheating, Joseph wanted to be as respectful as possible, and just planned to send her out quietly, without causing a public uproar. (Of course he was later told about the pregnancy being miraculous in nature, so he ended up staying with Mary.)