“And Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” -Matthew 1:19
Joseph: the earthly father of Jesus Christ and husband of Mary, is one of the tragically least talked about men in the Bible. He was a just man and did everything he could to serve God. He was not perfect, but out of all the men on earth, it is no coincidence that God chose him to raise Jesus.
If you recall, which I am sure you do, Joseph was not aware of what was happening at first when Mary was pregnant with Jesus. He did not understand that his wife was pregnant with the coming Messiah, he did not know that she was still a virgin, he genuinely thought that she had been with someone else. And it is not what Joseph did in this situation that speaks volumes about his character, but what he didn’t do.
As we see in Matthew 1:19, Joseph was unwilling to put Mary to shame. This is something that we often overlook, but is important to notice. Joseph was still unwilling to put Mary to shame, even though she was thought to have been pregnant with another man’s child! Can you even imagine how much pain that must have put him in? And yet he was willing to stay quiet. He was not willing to shame her, despite the fact that she had shamed him.
We are told all the time to stand up for ourselves. We are told that we cannot bring justice unless we use our voices and are strong, and if we stay silent, we are weak. And yes, of course, there is a time to stand out and speak the truth. We are told to be bold and not to be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16) and to speak the truth (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Eph. 4:15;, etc.). However, there is also a time to stay silent, and that time often gets overlooked.
I am, admittedly, someone who does not often stay silent. It is by no means my strong suit. If someone wrongs me, I am more than likely to tell someone else about it. It is what we have all been taught. If someone hurts you, you tell someone. And, of course, there is a time and place for telling others. But above all, we must never forget that it is out of love that we serve God. We must remember that love is patient and kind. We must remember that love does not insist on its own way. Love bears all things and endures all things, and if we do not love our brothers, we cannot love God (1 John 4:20-21).
Joseph was showing true love. Yes, he was deeply hurt by the woman he was going to marry, thinking that she had been with someone else. But he had absolutely no intention of hurting her reputation. We see this also in Matthew 18:15, which says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” This is exactly what Joseph had done. He was settling this with his betrothed, and with her alone.
But imagine what would have happened if Joseph had not remained silent. Not a single person he had told would have believed that Jesus was the Christ. He would have been that child that Mary had with some mystery man. He would have been just an earthly child born because of his mother’s sin, in the eyes of those around him. And while some people may have thought that anyway, imagine if Joseph had told everyone that?
Could you imagine his embarrassment when he later found out that Jesus was the Messiah? Could you imagine how horrible he would have felt? How much damage he would have done? Could you imagine the shame of knowing that he may have made those people lose their souls because now they would never believe Jesus is the Messiah?
When was the last time someone did something hurtful to you, and you stayed silent? How many people know about your last breakup? How many people did you tell about how awful your last boss was? How many people have you brought to shame because you didn’t remain quiet?
I believe that this is an issue we often justify and don’t really like to touch. How many times do we mistake going to our brothers and sisters for help, with gossiping? How often have you done this just within the past day? Week? Month? Year? While it is hard to hear, this is a very big issue, and it must come to a stop.
What if you bring someone else to shame that’s not a Christian? What would that person then think of Christians? What if you gossiped about someone and then later found out that you were wrong? Well now you have put that person to shame, you have made yourself look like a fool, and you have made two people enemies because now the person who you gossiped to has a low opinion of the person you gossiped about. No good can ever come from speaking poorly of others.
Today I would like to encourage you to think before you speak. I would like to encourage you to take a second to think about any problems you have with someone and think about what you did to make amends. Did you try? Did you pray? Did you go to them? Today I would like to encourage you to be more like Joseph and be silent when it’s hard. You never know how your words can affect others