This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Matthew 1: 18 – 19
It sometimes gets glossed over, but the birth of Jesus put Joseph in a really difficult situation. Unlike Mary, who at least had some advanced warning, the first time Joseph discovered something was happening was when he realised his fiancé was pregnant with someone else’s child. Joseph must have felt shocked and betrayed.
But even so, Joseph was still considerate of Mary. He decided he would divorce her as the law stipulated, but would make it as discrete as possible. This would spare Mary’s reputation and save her from public humiliation. In a society that was often ruthless to female (but not male) adulterers this was an uncommon act of generosity.
We know very little about Joseph. He barely appears in the Bible after the Christmas story. But in this verse we see he was both a man of principle, committed to upholding the law, but also a man of mercy. When put in a upsetting and embarrassing situation, he didn’t respond with revenge, he chose to act with kindness and understanding. There was a reason why God wanted his son to be raised by Joseph. Jesus would grow up seeing both integrity and grace modelled to him in his earthly father.
Prayer: Merciful God, when I am put into difficult situations help me to react well. It can be so easy to lash out in anger or look for tit-for-tat comeuppance. Help me to be like Joseph, someone who looks for justice not revenge and who practices mercy not retaliation.
Action: Try not to make any decisions from a place of hurt or anger. When you feel that way take a moment to breath and let the feelings subside. If you are struggling don’t be afraid to ask for God’s help