Friday, June 27, 2008

Joseph—How would Joseph handle the pressure today,...

...if Mary came to him and said “I’m pregnant and you’re not the father?” And how was life for Joseph after Jesus became a well known celebrity?

This is an interesting question, but it is one that we must say we don’t know.

One thing we can talk a little about is the concept of shame and honor in the New Testament. This is something that most of us really have no concept of. In this context, shame makes you less of a person with no standing within society and honor brings you greater standing within society. You can still see this in many war torn African nations today where systematic rape has become a weapon where whole communities of women become almost sub-human because they have lost their honor when they were raped—no one will marry them because there is no chance for a woman to become married who has been raped (been shamed this way). In other countries, there are many stories of families that have killed their own daughters and wives because they were sexually unchaste and this was a way for the families to atone for this breech in honor. The closest I can see this in a North American context is the Scarlet Letter and that was written in 1850—much has changed since then.

Shame and honor actually play a huge role in understand many New Testament passages. For instance, when Paul says I am not ashamed of the gospel, he is not saying I am not embarrassed by it, he is saying that the gospel is so trustworthy that I am staking my whole identity, my honor, on the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the gospel message—basically, I will not ever be shamed because of my belief in the message of the gospel.

In one sense, I think it would have been much more difficult to live in this shame/honor society with a wife that got pregnant the way Mary did. To live with all the gossip and the looks I’m sure he got. But God helped him to endure this by sending an angel that gave him direct revelation of what was happening and how he should respond. But I am sure it was very hard for him.


Lynelle said...

Good words.

Marsha Rae said...

Believe it or not, only about 40 to 50 years ago, when I was a teenager and young woman, if a woman or girl were to be pregnant out of wedlock, she was shunned by her family, her friends, church, community, etc. That was one of the consequences of her poor choice. It seems we are tolerant of everything and anything now days. While studying socialogy in the university in 1964, this was shown as a way a society enforces its mores and/or morals. It was quite a deterrant for immoral behavior. The question as far as I'm concerned is, when did we stop having consequences for our behavior? As a follower of Christ, I think of His handling of the adulterous woman whose accusers turned away as Christ reminded them of God's standards and said that he who has not sinned to cast the first stone. Does He mean for us to have no sociatal consequences for certain behaviors? We have man made laws and consequences for breaking those laws. Should we not have mores and consequences for breaking those? What do you think?