One character in the Christmas story is speaking to me today. It’s Joseph, one of the supporting cast members in this drama. He’s usually in the background, which is one reason I like him. Being a background person myself, I am comfortable around Joseph.
What strikes me today is the inner wrestling match he surely went through after finding out that his Mary was pregnant. The Scriptures say that Joseph, Mary’s soon-to-be husband, was faithful to the law, “and yet….” It’s the “and yet” part that tells me compassion was also part of his character. And now faithfulness to the law and compassion for others go head to head. The law tells him that Mary must be publically exposed and cast off, perhaps even stoned. Compassion reminds him that Mary is still a person worthy of love and respect. So Joseph compromises and chooses to move with gentleness. Out of faithfulness to the law he will end their relationship (and I sense undercurrents of sorrow), but out of compassion he will not expose her but do what he feels he must do quietly. It’s not the perfect solution. But it’s the best he can come up with.
Joseph acts with integrity, and perhaps that’s why he and God are still on speaking terms. God communicates with him by way of an angel in his dreams, tells him that he doesn’t have all the facts. Gives him a way forward that was completely off his radar.
And the story goes on from there.
As I ponder the dilemma facing Northwest Yearly Meeting, I sense the tension within us between faithfulness to the law on the one hand, and compassion for people on the other. Perhaps this is a simplistic view, as my husband would tell me, but I see us as holding these two ideals and wondering how to find our way through without giving up either one. Is it even possible?
And then the Joseph story reminds me that we don’t have all the facts yet (and perhaps never will), but that the same God who told Joseph to marry Mary can also tell us, “This is the way. Walk in it.” It may be a way we have not yet even imagined.
Yes. Come, Lord Jesus. Show us the way.