We have so many examples of sexual failure within the Bible and in our everyday lives that there are times we need to look at those people who have lived their lives with integrity. Every Christmas most of us hear the story and Biblical account of Jesus’ Birth, but seldom do we truly look at the integrity of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.
A few years ago my good friend, Bill Kraker, wrote a Christmas song about Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph. As I was listening to him sing the song this year the thought of Joseph’s integrity crossed my mind. The account that I am including is found in Matthew 1: 18-25 (NLT).
18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.
19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,which means ‘God is with us.’”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
As I look at the story from the perspective of sexual integrity, the first thing I notice is that Jesus’ conception initiates a sex scandal of a sort. Mary is engaged to Joseph, and becomes pregnant before their marriage. Today this would not be a big deal in most circles; however, in their time and day it was a huge deal. First of all some may think that Joseph violated her before their actual marriage, others may think that Mary had sex with a man other than Joseph which would be humiliating to Joseph and an embarrassment to his family. Regardless of Joseph’s feelings, he had no desire to publicly humiliate Mary, so he decided to end things in a quiet manner not showing a desire to get even by humiliating her in some way.
Then we have Joseph’s dream when the angel speaks to him and starts by saying “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” What would he have to be “afraid” of? Maybe because Joseph thought that if she was unfaithful to him during their engagement, she would eventually be unfaithful to him during their marriage; or maybe he just didn’t want to face the ridicule he would receive from his family, friends, and community; or even the thought of people referring to the baby as a bastard child was not something he wanted to deal with.
The third aspect of Joseph’s integrity to look at is that he knew God was speaking to him when he dreamed his dream. He didn’t just chalk it up to having eaten too much food the night before and being hurt and worried about the current circumstances. Joseph knew how to identify God’s voice when he spoke to him.
The final aspect of Joseph’s integrity in this story I would like to look at, is that when he did marry Mary he chose not to have sex with her until after Jesus was born and obviously after she had healed from the birth. Because of the circumstances of the birth, he put his personal desires on hold to allow God’s plan to be accomplished. When a marriage is all about “me,” it will not succeed.
Their engagement did not involve premarital sex and their marriage, though shrouded with a sex scandal, was not established on their personal desires but on accomplishing God’s will. They were concerned about what God wanted and they were concerned about how they could influence each other in accomplishing God’s desire for them as a couple.
I am sure Joesph’s integrity had a cost, but their is not a price tag that can be placed on the results of his integrity. Regardless of the current cost of integrity, it is always worth the price.
Because I mentioned my friend Bill Kraker’s song, I have included a basic video of the tune so you can also enjoy. If you would like a recorded copy just go to christchurchohio.org or stop by the church, the Christmas CD cost about $10.00 and also features a song written and performed by my wife.