Follow the example of Joseph and choose to respect your spouse
And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19)
You may have heard the story of the young teacher who asked her class to define love. One child responded, “When someone loves you, your name is safe in their mouth.” This well-crafted word picture illustrates how to respect another person. If the story is true, this child has wisdom beyond their years!
Joseph had every reason to think the worst of Mary. He had pledged himself to her, but then she turned up pregnant and he knew he was not the father. In their culture, he could have made a case for her to be stoned to death. No one would have blamed him for criticizing, humiliating, or embarrassing Mary. The law was on his side and he had the right, as well as the expectation, to sever the relationship.1
Yet, Mary’s name was safe in Joseph’s mouth. Matthew informs his readers that Joseph was unwilling to put Mary to shame and instead determined to take care of the situation privately. We can easily admire this man Joseph. Even when he questioned Mary’s integrity, he did not degrade her reputation publicly. He displayed both righteousness and kindness by his action to protect Mary’s reputation.2
With his choice not to shame Mary in public, Joseph paints a powerful portrait of respect. In one of her columns, military wife Julia Plaff includes mutual respect as one of the traits of a successful military marriage. “Successful couples,” Plaff explains, “fully appreciate and respect each other. They recognize that the ‘jobs’ of the military member and the military spouse are difficult and challenging. The sacrifice of one partner is no less important than the sacrifice of the other. Each spouse is committed to the success of the other.”3
This journey called marriage provides numerous opportunities to exercise respect or disrespect for actions either known or suspected. Follow the example of Joseph and choose to respect your spouse. How safe is his name in your mouth?
How do you build trust with your words? Examine the last things you shared about your husband with someone else. How safe would he say his name is in your mouth?
Prayer for the Journey
Lord, I know words are powerful. They have the power of life and death. Help me to speak words of life to and about my husband. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14). Amen.
1 Matt Woodley, The Gospel of Matthew, God with Us (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 31.
2 Donald A. Hagner, Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 1–13 (Dallas: Word, Inc, 1993), 18.
3 Julia Plaff, “A Team Approach to Military Life” Military.com, http://www.military.com/spouse/relationships/military-marriage/team-approach-to-military-life.html, accessed May 10, 2015.