Being Both Righteous and Kind

by Stan Mitchell
mandecision.jpg“And her husband Joseph,being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19, ESV).
Now you’ve got to see the story from Joseph’s perspective. There his fiancée Mary was, great with child, and Joseph knew that his relations with her had been absolutely correct.
So what had happened?
The answer was obvious, though a little startling for he must surely have had a good idea of her character.
She had been unfaithful to him, enjoying sexual relations with another man! We forget this, you see, because we remember those Christmas tales with the bit about being “with child by the Holy Spirit.”
We know that, but Joseph didn’t!
Then we learn that Joseph was “a righteous man.” Today we usually hear another word attached to the word “righteous” – “self righteous.” And we fear for Mary. Will there be a scene? Will he self righteously shame her for her loose morals? Will he in his perfectly understandable hurt and humiliation lash out?
Joseph is the unsung hero of this old, old story. His righteousness leads him not to angry judgment of Mary but to loving consideration for her feelings. Clearly he can no longer marry her, he thinks, but he can “put her away quietly.” Her feelings and reputation will be spared, because a righteous man need not be a ruthless man.

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