Thursday, December 19, 2019

Late Night Cheating and Admirable Reactions

Suggested Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

Late night broadcast television is an horrendous animal. One of the most entertaining and simultaneously disgusting shows is a program called Cheaters. Each week, Cheaters chronicles the life of a couple, one of whom suspects the other of cheating. The show's private investigators follow and film the offending party, show the footage of the infidelity to the victim, and encourage a confrontation between the two while the cheater is with the "other" woman or man. Upon seeing evidence of their partner's infidelity, the people on the show, typically, have two distinct reactions: betrayal and fury. Not just anger, but full-throated, screaming-at-the-top-of-one's-lungs-while-trying-to-rip-the-other-person's-throat-out fury. That reaction is what makes the show immediately both disgusting and addicting. The victim's reaction is the reaction anyone who has ever been cheated on wishes they'd had the guts to have themselves, to give the offending party exactly what they deserve and to do it publicly so that everyone knows exactly what kind of person they are.

In that spirit, I have always thought one of the most overlooked people in the Bible was Joseph, Jesus' earthly father.  Joseph was the epitome of the Christmas spirit. Betrothed to a young woman who shows up pregnant by someone else, he has every right to have her publicly humiliated or possibly stoned. But even before an angel tells him that the child is a miracle of the Holy Spirit, while he still believes that she has betrayed her oath to him and slept with another man, he decides to have mercy on her and break-up with her privately.  He doesn't make a public spectacle of her. He doesn't humiliate her or try to hurt her. He has mercy on her.

Then the angel appears and tells Joseph that Mary is carrying God's child and Joseph does something equally admirable. "He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son." (Matthew 1:24-25 HCSB). Most people cannot wait to share the wedding bed and consider the marriage incomplete (unconsummated) until that event takes place. Add that to the fact that Mary actually becomes Joseph's wife and he is within his rights to sleep with her. But Joseph chooses not to do anything that would later cast doubt upon who Jesus will become. He chooses to let the integrity of God's purpose overrule his own desires and needs. In everything, Joseph chooses to care about God's purpose and God's people more than himself or his own rights.

Both as a symbol of the Christmas Spirit and as an example for life, Joseph is an inspiration for us to draw from. Are we willing to give up our rights for the sake of God's kingdom? Are we willing to let mercy rule out when no one would blame us for taking revenge?  It's no wonder that God chose Joseph just as God chose Mary to watch over His Son. 

Lord, let me lay down my own rights for the sake of Your Kingdom. Let me display mercy and never seek revenge, even when people expect it of me.

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