This Sunday I will be speaking on Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly foster father. I believe Joseph was a great man and is often just seen in the shadows of the nativity along with the animals. From my study this week I learned lessons of being a godly man from the life of Joseph. Here is what I discovered.
Choose to be a good man.
Matthew, in his biography of Jesus, describes Joseph as a righteous man. In other translations it says he was a man who is faithful to the law. We often define our ethics in light of our circumstances, worries, and relationships and most likely it is some combination of the three. We think everything is right when everyone turns out happy, like at the end of a movie.
Biblically, righteousness is defined as someone who follows the law of God, or the commands of God. Jesus defined it as someone who follows God with all their heart, soul, and strength. He also said that those who love him will obey his commands.
So, being a good man means following God’s commands no matter the circumstances, worries, or relational difficulties we may encounter. Godly men stay true and strong to the commitment, and to the word they gave God.
Seek to honor others, even when it is tough to do.
Joseph was betrothed to Mary. This status in their relationship meant they were technically married, but not sexually consummated yet. During the betrothal period the husband would go prepare a new home for the couple, and when it was ready would come back for her and marry her, and then the marriage ceremony would take place and be consummated.
So when Mary came to Joseph and said she was pregnant it was troubling. It wasn’t even a violation of that tradition because the two of them had not been together. It meant adultery. The betrothal was so binding that if Joseph died Mary would have been considered a widow. So this was a violation of the most serious nature. The law said that adulterers were to be stoned to death but this rarely occurred. What took place was Joseph would sign a paper saying “I divorce Mary” in front of two witnesses. Then he would publicly shame her for the shame he had brought on him by committing this act.
Joseph, though, sought to respect Mary, even in this trying circumstance. While he was going to divorce her he was not going to publicly shame her. Perhaps he had sympathy for her because of wild claim that she was impregnated by God. Perhaps he truly loved her. Or perhaps, because he was a good man, sought to show her love, much like Jesus did to the woman caught in adultery in John 8.
Godly men respect others even when let them down, even when things are not going right, even when it is not their fault.
Sacrifice for the ones you love before you sacrifice for your career, success, or reputation.
Joseph chose to be obedient to God and not follow through with his initial plans. This would mean that in the eyes of his community Joseph chose to marry an adulterer. In the small community in which he lived Joseph sacrificed his reputation and standing in the community. In the eyes of many, at best, he was like the prophet Hosea, who was commanded by God to marry a prostitute. Don’t overlook the significance of this fact. Because we live in a western culture influenced by Christ placing value on everyone, even the worst of sinners, we are not accustomed to the social stigma that would be attached to Mary and Joseph.
In the movie The Nativity it shows how this couple was poor (and they were) and demonstrated how Joseph gave up many of the limited resources for Mary. While we have no documentation of such events I believe it is an accurate portrayal of the character of Joseph.
Stand for what you believe in even when others are trying to push you around.
The sacrifice came in the little things. Not just the big things. I believe men have an easier time sacrificing for something big but struggle at the day to day little things. But it’s in the little sacrifices that we make every day that lead up to the big things. If more men would be willing to sacrifice for their wives, their children, in the little day to day struggles of life they would find more respect and honor given to them in the home. Many men don’t see that though- they just see themselves getting ran over. Joseph demonstrates a better way.
Respect your wife/girlfriend.
Before Joseph had the vision from God he was going to divorce Mary quietly. This was an incredible act of respect on his part. He might believe her to be crazy, a betrayer, and a liar, but he still respected her. He could have shamed her. He didn’t.
Aretha Franklin sang R-E-S-P-E-C-T and the woman in your life deserves it, but how you show respect to woman is different from showing respect to a man.
Respect to a woman means to honor and cherish her. Respect to a man means honor and affirm his desires- and not his performance. Your wife/girlfriend will feel esteemed when:
- You try something new with her.
- You give her kindness and praise.
- You teach the children to show her respect.
- You value her opinion in the gray areas not as wrong- just different.
Joseph respected Mary in tough circumstances. Men can follow his example.
Take up the challenge. Don’t shrink from it.
When Joseph had his vision about the condition of Mary’s pregnancy he had a choice. He could still follow through with the divorce or choose to follow God. God knew Mary would need a good man to be by her side, and he chose one, but Joseph still had to rise to the moment.
Matthew tells us he did. He writes, “He did what the angel of the Lord told him to do.” He rose to what God was calling on him to do. He didn’t shrink.
Too often American men shrink from the call of God in their life. Why is this so? I think it is the fault of the church. Churches have catered to the needs of women right down to how the church is decorated. Many times when a man comes to church it’s like going into a Bed, Bath, and Beyond at the mall and nothing like going to the Bass Pro Shop. By the way I think that would be awesome to decorate a church like a Bass Pro Shop! The majority of men (no disrespect to those who do) do not like going into a Bed, Bath, and Beyond!
Beyond that, there is not much place for men to serve in the church without it involving childcare, weddings, funerals, or potlucks. A lot of sermons out there are oriented towards God giving us security and hope and not taking on the world and changing it for the better. There is little sense of conquest and fulfillment.
So Christian men, we have a challenge before us. While we do not wish to be chide about meeting needs of women in the church, we must also rise up to the incredible challenge that God has given us. That is to bringing heaven down here to earth, making our community a better place, and building a better world. Don’t shrink from it, but rather rise up to it.
God gave Joseph an incredible challenge. He rose. Christian men we have the same calling. Rise to it!