“Rumor has it”: Joseph and fear.


Matthew 1:18-25  

But as [Joseph] considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

I’m an HSP, which is a much hipper way of saying I’m a “highly sensitive person.” Not physically sensitive: I inherited the Bradley family gracelessness and in the month of December have inflicted a number of nasty and yet unaccountable bruises.

I’m very sensitive to other people and emotional stuff.

Those of you who know how to get me going would say: “Yeah, well, what woman isn’t sensitive?” And, yeah, that will get me going, but I could also reply: “What woman do you know who when she was a kid was acutely aware of the possibility that her stuffed animals would figure out which ones were her favorite and was sure to organize them on her bed in such a way to avoid hurting their feelings?”

That was me between the ages of four and ten. I’m not exaggerating.

I’m also very frank and blunt, which some people mistake for insensitivity. But I find that this frankness works pretty well  in conjunction with the sensitivity. I can tell pretty quickly when I say something that gets a reaction out of someone. It’s in the eyes; they get shifty, and the person kind of moves in his seat a little. And I think: Okay, I can either be accommodating and charming, or I can get frank and blunt with him and really get his attention.

More often than not, it’s the latter.

I think Joseph was kind of like this in a way. In this passage, we see that he wanted to do the right thing for other people, and he was very aware of how other people saw him, and how other people saw Mary. And he was aware of how people would respond and react to him and his future wife.

After all, what would people think?

When Mary told him she was pregnant, he knew this was a problem. For her, sure, but definitely for him.

During this time period, Mary’s father had legal right under Roman Rule  to have Mary and Joseph killed for this apparent breaking of the law. Joseph would have been well-aware of the potential consequences of having a pregnant fiance.

Joseph was fully aware that this was a very sensitive situation. He was fully aware of how people would see him: He would be seen as either a cuckold, an oblivious chump unaware of the fact that his fiance is two-timing him, or he would be seen as sinful, lascivious, law-breaking what-have-you. People would talk, and he would have that label on him forever.

And he was sensitive to Mary. He didn’t want to ruin her life either. So he was ready to divorce her quietly, slip back into normal step with his society, find a woman to marry who wouldn’t make people shift their eyes, pass knowing glances at each other or avoid him altogether when they saw him or his spouse.

Joseph was afraid. But what is the first thing the angel tells him? “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” The angel also tells him that she has conceived through the Holy Spirit, and that this is the Son of God.

Now as a HSP, I would probably say to Joseph: You’d better get used to that glazed look people are going to get whenever you get to this part of your story about your son. Also the slow nod, the sneaking suspicion that you’re being humored when people say: “Oh, I see, it was through the the Holy Spirit… I gotcha…”

I think Joseph is fully aware of this. Joseph is sensitive to how other people see him, and what other people are going to think about him. But he doesn’t need to be afraid of what other people think. Joseph takes Mary as his wife. He does as the angel tells him.

Joseph chooses not to be afraid of people.

He is only responsible for himself. At this point, it doesn’t matter what people are going to say. If people talk, if people raise eyebrows: who cares?

Like Joseph, we don’t need to be afraid of what other people think. The only person we need to be worried about, the only person we’re accountable to is God. We don’t answer to people. We answer to God.

And instead of being afraid of what people are going to think or say about us if we do something crazy that God has asked us to do, it’s time we started worrying about not doing the crazy things God has asked us to do.

Things like:

Giving to the undeserving.

Loving our enemies.

Doing good to those who hurt us.

Speaking blessings over those who wrong us.

Dying to ourselves, and living for God.

We need to become HSP’s about what God thinks, what God asks of us, and what God’s dreams and expectations are for us.And like Joseph, we then obey Him.


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