Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day 5: Luke 2:5

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. -Luke 2:5

It would have been a huge disgrace for Joseph to be seen in public with a pregnant fiancee.  The Jewish leaders of the time were obsessed with making sure they looked righteous to everyone.  They would stand on the street corners praying lengthy, pretentious prayers so that those in the village would view them as holy.  They would fight to have the longest tassels on their robes and would make a big show of fasting so that everyone around them would think that they were the greatest and most sanctified among the Jews.  In a culture where appearances were everything, being seen with an unmarried woman that was nine months pregnant would have social suicide.

Matthew 1 tells us that Joseph didn't believe Mary's story about the Holy Spirit conceiving the baby inside of her.  In fact, his plan was to divorce her quietly.  But then an angel of the Lord came to Joseph and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."  Then it continues, "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. "

So at the time of the census, while Mary and Joseph were already married, anyone who could do simple math would know that she was pregnant before the marriage.  The judgement and ostracism they would have felt from people who were supposedly experts in God's will and intent would have been enormous.  Just imagine if Joseph would have been more concerned with what his friends, family and people in the community thought about him than what his God thought of him?  What if he was more concerned about looking righteous by following the traditions of the Jews than listening to the angel of the Lord and following their directions?

We all struggle with the desire to be liked and accepted by those around us.  And those desires are not necessarily a bad thing when they are put in their proper place.  The problem comes in for us when we begin to desire that acceptance so much that we choose to follow the crowd before we follow Jesus.  Even for those Christians who are willing to sacrifice the acceptance of others for God's will, we can be tempted to allow other's judgement of us steal our joy and Godly confidence and this can lead to resenting the Christian life and allowing ourselves to feel like martyrs instead of victors.  

The Gospel of Grace tells us that even the smallest sin makes us unacceptable to our Holy and perfect God.  Even the person that spends their entire life doing good is unacceptable to God if they've told the smallest lie or had the slightest impure thought.  The only thing that makes us acceptable is by accepting Jesus' death and resurrection as the payment for our sin.  We must have the humility to say that not only are we in a situation where we need to be saved due to our sin, but that we are unable to save ourselves and see that Jesus is the only hope for salvation.  Once we do that, we are all on a level playing field...we were unacceptable to God, then by the grace of Jesus' death and resurrection we become acceptable to Him.  If you have accepted this gift of grace, then you have the acceptance of Almighty God, creator of all things, the source of all love, all light and all good.  Why do we let the opinion of others determine how loved and accepted we feel?

While I'm sure it was a struggle for Joseph and Mary to keep their eyes and hearts focused on God's love and acceptance of them and not focused on the judgmental eyes of others, they still were able to connect strongly enough with God's acceptance to follow through on what He was asking them to do...being the earthly parents of the Son of God.

So, in what areas of your life are you letting the acceptance of other's overrule God's acceptance of you?  Where are you putting more effort into pleasing others than in pleasing God?  Where are you letting other's judgments about you steal your joy and Godly confidence?  In what areas are you passing judgement on another Christian and feeling superior to them instead of seeing them as your equal as in the eyes of God?  Are there any instances in your life where you are condemning someone who may actually be following the will of the Holy Spirit?

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