After all, how do you love someone who has hurt you or deliberately deceived you? Does God really
mean for us to love everyone? Even them?
Yep, He does.
And this past Sunday, my pastor made the point in a thought provoking way. He talked about the story of Joseph and Mary through Joseph’s eyes, and by the end of the service, I knew I needed to write about it.
Here’s what he said.
At the time of Joseph and Mary’s betrothal, the law said if a woman was unfaithful to her betrothed, a man could do one of three things. He could have her put to death for her sin, he could bring her to the front gate and have her publicly shamed while divorcing her, or, he could quietly go about a divorce so she wouldn’t be shamed and humiliated. A betrothal was binding and the only way out of it was through death or divorce.
When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, he naturally assumed she had been unfaithful to him, and he was certainly well aware of the three choices he had to remedy the situation. But let’s not forget to look at Joseph’s heart. He loved Mary enough to take her for his wife, and he certainly must have felt the sharp pain of betrayal. And that combined with the humiliation of people knowing she was with child before they had consummated their marriage must have been a difficult thing for him to bear.
In many people’s eyes, it would have been perfectly reasonable for Joseph to hurt Mary like she hurt him. He could have asked that she be put to death, or at least humiliated her for her apparent sin. Surely God would understand if Joseph didn’t practice love in this situation.
But that’s not what Joseph did.
And that brings us to what love looks like in the eyes of God.
Joseph chose to quietly divorce Mary, even though she had apparently betrayed him. He wouldn’t humiliate her or do her harm in any way. She would be able to go away during her pregnancy, and then start life over without her reputation being tarnished. It was an act of unselfishness on Joseph’s part, and I wonder how many men of that time would have chosen the same path.
But it gets even better.
According to prophecy, the woman who would carry the Christ Child had to be a virgin. That means God knew she would likely be ridiculed or scorned by others when she claimed she was carrying the Son of God. That would create a difficult situation for any man in the young girl’s life. God knew the situation would require love.
My pastor suggested something next that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.
Maybe He chose Mary to be the Mother of God in part because of Joseph.
Maybe God searched the earth for a man who would act in love, putting the woman’s life ahead of his own. Maybe when He talks about love, this is what He means.
Could Joseph be one of the greatest examples of selfless love in the Bible?
Of course, we all know how the story ends. Joseph was visited by an angel who told him it was okay for him to take Mary as his wife because she was telling the truth. And Joseph did just that, and Jesus was born into the family.
But let’s not forget that when Joseph made that decision of love, he did it before the angel reassured him of Mary’s faithfulness. He acted in love despite the fact that he thought he had been betrayed and hurt by Mary.
And that’s what I’ll remember as I go about my walk with God.
If God chose Joseph based on this kind of heart, this type of selfless love, then isn't that what we should all strive to achieve in our own lives?
What about you? Do you struggle to love those who hurt or betray you? Do you believe God used Joseph’s kind of love to give grace and comfort to Mary? How will this revelation affect you in your life?