Monday, July 7, 2008

Joseph...the Idol Christian?

Though I've already established my love of Donald Miller (just read Searching for God Knows What..amazing book, better than Blue Like Jazz!), I wanted to share a little something he persuaded me to do. So like I just said, well typed, less than two seconds ago, I read his book and he had talked about how he went through the gospels and observed Christ's life. He gushed and rambled about the things that were revealed to him when he stripped everything else away and focused on Jesus and His example of a righteous life. I thought the idea was fascinating and now I'm attempting to do it myself.

Obviously, I started with Matthew. The first story told is the story of Joseph and Mary, verses 18 and 19.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

So as I see it, Mary and Joseph weren't married yet, but practically so. I have to imagine that Joseph loved Mary very much. Can you imagine his reaction when he found out Mary was pregnant? In his mind, he justly perceived that she had defiled their commitment, the text plainly call him a "just man". If I'm not mistaken, this type of defilement was punishable by death from stoning. Joseph would have been totally justified in turning her in and giving her over to death. He didn't. "Unwilling to put her to shame, [he] resolved to divorce her quietly." Joseph possessed a different kind of love for Mary, a love that loved more than it hated, a love that sought merciful mercy instead of justified justice.

Now flipping the tide, imagine when someone has wronged us. Imagine, or remember a time when you were betrayed by someone. "Revenge! Revenge! Revenge!", is the impending cry, is it not? This would be according to the way of this world, but Christ calls us to radical love, a love that seeks the good of our enemies rather than retaliation. Besides Joseph, who better to view this new kind of love than God, Himself! Consider the passage found in Romans 5:5-12. Joseph only perceived, and perceived wrongly, that he had been wronged. But God was wronged, a creation that was made to love Him sought pleasure in equality with Him. Like Joseph, God was more than justified to leave us in our condition, yet He "shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Sin is rebellion, we were in "enmity with God." As Joseph showed Mary loving mercy instead of righteous judgment, as God Himself showed us loving mercy instead of righteous judgment, so are we to display mercy to our enemies.

I don't know or even understand the randomness of this thought, but I tend to be quite vindictive and vengeful, even when I can be justified in being so. But Christ has called us to a new love. These are His words, His demand(yep, this idea was fueled by What Jesus Demands from the World...):

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you..."

He says to us differently. We are called to ultimate love, a self-sacrificial love that seeks mercy rather than justice. After all, weren't we shown the same? If it's good for Christ, it's good for us. "Truly truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him." Sure, maybe it's out of context, but hey, it works!

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