In Matthew chapter 1 we see godly character displayed in Joseph, even BEFORE an angel informed him that Mary was pregnant with Jesus by way of the Holy Spirit. Had Joseph been ruled by his ego, he could’ve been malicious toward Mary, even having her put to death. But that wasn’t his approach, far from it. Matthew 1:19 tells us:
…Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
Joseph didn’t seek personal vindication or attempt to even the score for the apparent wrongdoing of Mary. He was ruled by his commitment to God, as well as Mary’s wellbeing. The ESV Commentary says “Joseph intended to maintain his personal righteousness, yet he desired to show compassion even though Mary appeared to be an adulteress.”
We can learn something from Joseph about how we treat others who appear to have wronged us, or who are living less than godly lives. As Christians, we should never abandon our personal commitment to right living before God. At the same time, we should never abandon our compassion for those who don’t.
Jesus is the ultimate example of righteousness and compassion. In Mark chapter 6, the sinless son of God had compassion on the crowd, taught them, and even miraculously provided food for them. Why did he have such deep compassion for them? Because they were worthy and right living? Not at all, rather he did so because they were lost, they were “like sheep without a shepherd.”
As Christians, we should never have an “us verses them” mentality toward people who don’t know Christ or walk in his ways. If we do, our self-righteousness distances us from the very people that God is calling us to show compassion to and share the good news with.
How many of us would have responded the way Joseph did in his situation with Mary? Maybe it’s time we ask, “What Would Joseph Do?” Better yet, “What Would JESUS Do?”