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While He Thought on These Things

When someone wrongs us or frustrates us in some way, our reaction says a lot about who we are. It’s not like we’re forbidden from being upset or bothered, but there is in general a socially acceptable level to which we can lash out or be unkind to others when they are in the fault. Yet, we ought to be wary of how we react to such things.

I was thinking about this recently as I read over the nativity story:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: when as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to puther away privily.

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 1:18-20)

Let’s think about Joseph for a second. Mary was pregnant, so it was reasonable to assume she had been unfaithful, no matter her contestation. Yet, he was a just man, not willing to make her an object of social judgment and ridicule. He instead chose a much kinder and more compassionate approach of doing it privately.

This story has always struck me because my German grandmother had to deal with an adulterous husband, my grandfather, and spent the end of her life in loneliness. Yet, she always treated him with kindness, despite everyone telling her that she should be rude to him and his new wife and child. It just wasn’t in her.

My grandfather often made it even worse by deliberately putting her in situations where she had to interact with his new wife and child, to the point of even asking her to babysit the child a few times. And in all this, my grandmother was kind, compassionate, and patient, despite how difficult it was for her to do what she believed was right.

As I look at this story of Joseph, I see my grandmother’s kindness. I see a higher standard for forgiveness, regardless of what personal suffering and humility must be endured. And it makes me feel like there is something to learn from Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s pregnancy.

While He Thought on These Things

No one needs to be perfectly like my grandmother or Joseph, but there is a valuable lesson to take away from Joseph’s story.

He didn’t react rashly. Instead, he thought on what had happened. He pondered, and perhaps even prayed. Only then did the angel come. Not when Mary first told him, but after. His faith and character were tested, it seems, before he could know what was right and what he ought to do. And the same is true of us.

There seemed to be a standard practice for public ridicule relating to adultery that Joseph could have subjected Mary to. Many adulterers were stoned, after all. And Joseph would have been reasonable to do so, or at least so far as the customs went, just like it is reasonable for us to spurn those who wrong us, or even lash out at them or ridicule them with defaming comments and slanderous gossip.

Yet, maybe there is another way, a higher way, that God would like to see realized within us. And maybe that’s why Joseph was the one whom God trusted to raise Savior of the world.

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