Before God intervened to reveal to Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy was indeed a miracle, it’s understandable why he would think Mary was just creating an extravagant excuse to cover sinful behavior; and why he would want to end their pending marriage. Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness carried a severe social stigma. Marrying this girl would cause serious damage to Joseph’s family’s reputation - not to mention cast a negative light on Joseph’s own innocence. According to Jewish civil law, Joseph had a right to publicly break off the engagement and even have Mary stoned.
But because he was a good man, Joseph laid aside his rights. He wanted to spare Mary the humiliation and death sentence by quietly parting ways with her. He was doing what society told him was the proper choice, while still showing grace.
Then God sent the angel of the Lord down in a dream to give another option - marry her. In light of the circumstances, this was no small demand and would not be an easy task for Joseph to accept. Even with Mary’s story confirmed, this still left Joseph with a seemingly scandalous situation that would haunt his family for the rest of their lives. But Joseph showed both great compassion toward Mary and faith in the word of the Lord when he stepped up to go beyond doing what was expected in order to do what was truly right.
It’s easy to judge someone else and make false assumptions about their character when you don’t know their whole story - and even easier to push them aside if we feel their reputation makes them too embarrassing to associate with. But we need to realize that God is often doing a work in others’ lives that we cannot see, and their potential in God’s Kingdom is just as impactful as anyone else’s. Our love for people should never have limitations. And we need to remember that often doing what’s honorable means reaching farther than the norm. It requires more than simply extending grace and kindness. It means laying aside the rights we think we have to reach the people who most would cast away because of their unappealing status. It means stepping out of our comfort zones and going out of our way to love with an unconditional love that the Lord so perfectly shows all of us every day.
Pray: “Lord, You are not a respecter of persons - You love all of your children with a profound, everlasting love. I pray that I would have the same heart as You. Help me to always see others’ potential and not their faults. Help me to have deep compassion for everyone I encounter, regardless of their social stature or their broken past.”