This year I’ve decided to read through the entire Bible. That’s right, the whole thing. Currently, we have about 30 people from our church doing it with me. If you’re interested, I’d love for you to join. You can find the plan I’m using here. Occasionally, throughout the year, I plan to share a few reflections from my reading on my blog. Here’s the first one.
Have you ever found yourself in public in close proximity to someone who’s acting in a strange and/or awkward manner? Maybe its a neighbor who’s always arguing with their spouse and their arguments tend to spill into the front yard or driveway. Maybe you’ve found yourself sitting next to an intoxicated person on public transportation, and people look at you thinking your with them. Or maybe it’s simply walking past someone on the sidewalk who’s dropped their purse or bag and all its contents have spilled on the ground.
While I may feel bad or sorry for that person (or those persons), in the moment I can be hesitant to get involved. All sorts of questions go through my mind.
What would or should I say or do ?
If I help, will it only make them more ashamed?
Is it really my place?
But, if I’m honest, often times I don’t want to help for fear of their shame and embarrassment being projected on me.
In Matthew 1 we read about Joseph discovering that his fiance, Mary, is pregnant with Jesus. Our church just spent an entire month celebrating this announcement. But Joseph’s initial reaction wasn’t celebration.
In his mind, his wife-to-be was unfaithful. How else would a baby be conceived?! And because pregnancy is something you can keep quiet only for so long, he knew it was only a matter of time before Mary’s reputation would be tarnished. And by association, his reputation would be as well, even if he wasn’t the father. Therefore, his initial response was to separate from Mary quietly and move on with his life.
I don’t think anyone would fault Joseph for that plan of action. The text tells us Joseph was actually kind-hearted in his plan, in that he didn’t want to publicly disgrace Mary. But an angel stopped him dead in his tracks. Through a supernatural encounter Joseph learned that the baby had been conceived through the Holy Spirit and was God’s son!
What a relief, right?
Well… in one sense yes. Mary wasn’t unfaithful. But in another sense no. How many people are really going to believe this story?
That meant Joseph, in staying with Mary, had to be okay with absorbing the perceptions and projections of other people. People might think that, either, he was the father and they were having a baby out of wedlock, or that he needed to get some self-respect and dump someone who wasn’t going to be faithful to him. Joseph staying with Mary is a beautiful picture of obedience and selfless act of love.
In many ways, his response to Mary foreshadows Jesus’ response to us. Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin on our behalf, so that we could become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus associates with us in both our private and public shame. He’s not put off by our poor reputation, the skeleton’s in our closet, or our massive shortcomings. He graciously and courageously takes them on for the sake of taking them to the grave, knowing that when he comes back, all our baggage and past sins will stay buried.
Joseph’s response to Mary foreshadows Jesus’ response to us. And therefore, should be the catalyst for us to respond to others in the same way.
The shame of others should cause no fear for us, because Jesus has dealt with all of our shame once and for all on the cross.
Therefore, be bold. Be courageous. Be like Joseph. Step into the brokenness of other people’s lives in order to be a catalyst and conduit for God’s mercy and love.