Saturday, 31 August 2013

A man who said so little can teach us so much.

There is a well known saying that says 'actions speak louder than words.'  I am sure we are all familiar with it?  Tomorrow is fathers day and over the past week I have been reflecting on the many men in the bible who have made a huge impact not only on their families but on the world.  One man however has really caught my attention in recent days.  His name is Joseph, the earthly father of the most influential man who has ever lived, Jesus.

Out of all the key people within the texts of the bible Joseph is given the least amount of time and his story is very short. It is interesting to note that out of all the characters in the early chapters of Matthews Gospel, Joseph is the one that remains silent. He never says anything within the narrative, and yet his actions say more about who he was as a person, a father and a role model, than anything he could have said.

As we celebrate father’s day this year I have really been reflecting on Josephs brief story as I believe that it gives important insight into who he was not only as a father but also as a man in society. His life and actions are key to Godly living and is a reflection of who God calls us to be not only in our families but also as men within our church and within our communities in which we live.

Joseph was considered a just man. He was a man of high values and standards and in the nativity story he was faced with a moral dilemma that he had to work through.

In the gospel of Luke we are told that Mary went to stay with her sister for several months and it wasn’t until she returned that she told Joseph she was pregnant. I want you to consider for a moment how you would feel if your wife had been away for a while, came home, and then declared that she was expecting a child. Just to top it off she would have also told him that the child was from God. I am sure Joseph was quite confused and distressed and would have known that this declaration, in the eyes of the Hebrew law would have labeled Mary as an adulterous woman. As a man of high moral standing he would have known what was now expected from him from a legal perspective. Matthew tells us that before God even intervened in the situation that Joseph chose to divorce her quietly and send her away. His response was not aggressive and he responded to the situation with kindness and mercy. Joseph would have been well within his rights to question her actions and have her stoned but the bible records no such response.

Dr James Dobson once said that, “One of the best things a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” That’s what Joseph did. He loved Mary, even when he thought she didn’t love him. Our children are watching us men and they are watching how we respond to the issues within our relationships. If we want our children to grow up and treat their wives and partners well then we need to be modelling this behaviour in our own relationships. A behaviour of gentleness, love and forgiveness.

As God opened his eyes Joseph clearly understood his responsibility to his future wife. This would have been a tough choice because Joseph would have been setting himself up for possible ridicule and humiliation. As fathers and protectors of our families we are called to sometimes face difficult situations as we own our family responsibilities. Joseph understood clearly what God expected of him, and was ready to obey! He would take Mary to be his wife and suffer the cutting remarks from others, of a child conceived prior to their wedding. He would obey God in spite of the fact that this child of divine promise would be born under a cloud of adultery. Joseph believed God, obeyed God, and accepted the responsibility that God had given him.

Austin L. Sorensen once said, “A child is not likely to find a father in God unless he finds something of God in his father.” That is a deep thought. Seeing God in their father is a child’s best way to come to know God as their heavenly Father. Men, we have such an influence in our children’s lives. They look up to us for protection, for teaching and for spiritual leadership and guidance. What an awesome privilege and responsibility this is for us.

You know Joseph was a man who didn’t say much. But although his words were not recorded in the verses of the bible his actions were. His example teaches us some invaluable lessons not only in fatherhood but also as men in a society that is seriously lacking in good Male leadership —a lesson in righteousness, a lesson in responsibility, and a lesson in religion and faith. Joseph had many strengths that encourage us and teach us. He was firstly a man of integrity. He never compromised who he was and what he believed. He was also a man who was sensitive to God’s guidance and he was willing to do what God required of him no matter what consequences may have followed. From his life we learn that God honours that integrity. We learn that our position in our communities is of little importance when God chooses to use us. We learn that being obedient to the guidance of God results in more guidance from God. Finally we learn that how we feel when faced with a situation is not an accurate measure of the rightness or wrongness of our action. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul highlights for us what true love, integrity and good modelling looks like when he says that:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” - James 1:27

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