Not Your Average Joe

This time of year our focus is on the baby in the manger and rightly so. We also give special attention to His virginal mother, Mary. But what about the third part of that holy family?

You know who I’m talking about. That stand in the background out of the spotlight guy named Joseph.

Maybe he was an introvert by nature. Maybe not. I really don’t know a lot about Joseph simply because there isn’t much written about him in the scriptures.

When you really think about it, Joseph must have been a truly amazing guy for God to have picked him to be the earthly father of His only son, Jesus. God could have picked absolutely anyone for the job – a king, a statesman, a rabbi, a rich man.

But He didn’t.

He picked Joseph. And by all accounts he was just an ordinary, average Joe.

A carpenter. A man who worked with his hands.

What was so different about Joseph’s character that he was the one to make the cut above all the others?

In the first chapter of Matthew, the nineteenth verse we can gain a few clues to his character. Matthew writes that Joseph was as a righteous man.

To be righteous means to be in right standing with God. Joseph loved God and did what His law commanded. He could stand before God and say, “Everyday I’m doing my best to do what you’ve asked of me.”

Not really so ordinary, is it?

When I read further I find how he dealt with a problematic situation.

You see, his fiancé Mary had given him some troubling news.

She was pregnant.

And the baby wasn’t his.

But it got even stranger than that.

Not only was she pregnant, but she claimed that she was still a virgin and had been chosen to give birth to the very Son of God.

I can only imagine the look on Joseph’s face when she dropped that little bombshell. He must have thought she was slightly delusional. After all, hadn’t she been visiting her relative Elizabeth for the past three months? Had something happened to her there that she just couldn’t bring herself to admit?

You know that if this happened in our present day he might have suggested that she be psychologically evaluated or at the very least have insisted upon a DNA test to determine paternity. This had Jerry Springer written all over it.

But as I read on I see his reaction isn’t one of anger or betrayal. It is humility and love.

Yes, he’s going to break it off with her, but he’s going to do it quietly. In those days, under the law those who became pregnant outside of marriage could have been stoned to death. But for Joseph to marry her after she had revealed her pregnancy was to say that he was the responsible party in the matter.

But Joseph was a righteous man. He was in right standing with God. He followed the rules and would have never been intimate with his fiancé before marriage.

So what to do?

The scriptures say he considered what to do. He gave it some long, hard thought. He knew what he must do. Out of compassion he would let quietly her go.

However, all those hard, thought out plans changed in an instant when he got a visit from an angel of the Lord. Everything Mary had told him was validated by that angel. Joseph was to take Mary as his wife, raise the boy as his own and name Him Jesus.

Did you get that? He was to be the adoptive daddy to the Son of God.

Jesus, the Savior of the world.

My Savior. Your Savior.

Joseph’s Savior.

Definitely not your average Joe.

 

 

 

 

Back to the Brady Bunch

I caught an old episode of The Brady Bunch the other night. It took me right back to elementary school when all my friends and I wanted to emulate the cool and popular Marsha Brady. Unfortunately, most of us knew we were more likely to be misfit, middle sister Jan-material.

In this particular installment Marsha had been uncharacteristically called into the principal’s office and accused of drawing an unflattering picture of her teacher with an equally unflattering caption. As she flung back her lovely locks in protest and disbelief, her principal sentenced her to an hour of detention every day after school for a week. The injustice continued at home as her parents actually- shocker alert– backed the principal! Carol Brady told her distraught daughter that surely the principal was a reliant source of information and if he said that Marsha had done the dastardly deed then she must have done it. They even had the gall to punish her by taking away her upcoming slumber party!

Granted, by the end of the episode the real culprit was discovered and Marsha got to have her sleep-over, but her parents never apologized for taking the errant principal’s side. In fact, Marsha had falsely accused one of her own friends for the picture and Mr. Brady pointed out that she had jumped to conclusions just like the principal. Instead of either calling the school on the phone to rant about it, reporting it to the local newspaper or phoning the television reporter help line, he turned it into a lesson for Marsha.

Interesting approach.

Hey, I am not totally insensitive to poor Marsha for having to do the time without committing the crime. When I was in junior high school I also experienced a teacher initiated injustice. Our choral director was the new sheriff in town that semester and our class of seventy-plus singers had become unruly. She turned choir into a study hall and gave us an explicit no-talk rule for the remainder of the class time under the threat of paddling.

I was and always have been a rule follower so I got out my spelling book and began copying my spelling list in my notebook. A boy behind me tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Is that our assignment?” Without uttering a single syllable I simply nodded and pointed to the lesson in my book. Immediately I was called on the carpet for talking. There was no use in trying to defend myself because in those days the teacher was always right. I knew she was trying to make an example of me. I was a straight-A student and on that particular day I was even wearing my cheerleading uniform.

Into into the hallway I went to stoically receive my punishment.  Two humiliating whacks of a paddle that I will never forget. Was it fair? Absolutely not. Would I ever do that to one of my own students? Never! But did my parents call the school to complain about the unjust treatment of their honor student. Nope. Because it was a different time and parents had a different attitude about teachers.

I will be the first to say that I am so very glad that corporal punishment is considered to be an archaic and abusive form of punishment that is no longer tolerated in schools. Fear and intimidation should never be a legitimate tactic when trying to manage a classroom. But I do wish that the time when parents and teachers were on the same side was the norm and not the exception.

I have been blessed to have many, many wonderful sets of parents who have backed me up through the years. As each year passes and attitudes about school continue to change I am even more grateful for parental support. I don’t think that parents should blindly accept what the teacher says about their child, but when there is a question I do think that the place to start is with the teacher. Not the principal, superintendent, local newspaper or television station. Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes, but I would pray that when there is a problem that a parent would give me the benefit of the doubt and first speak to me.

As a believer, if a miscommunication arises, I have to take special care in my response to the children and to their parents. If I am Christ’s ambassador to the world I must present God’s love even in the most difficult of situations. I must remember what the Word tells me.

Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 29:11“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

By taming my tongue and taking on the garment of humility and love I can trust God to lead me into the most difficult parent-teacher conferences and strive toward resolution. And although I may not be able to neatly wrap it all up like a thirty minute Brady Bunch episode, in the end I hope my attitude can bring glory to the One who loves us all, the parent, the child and the teacher.