“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace…” (Matt. 1:19)
I love it when one small phrase jumps out one day and changes me forever.
“Because Joseph was a righteous man,” he chose love and grace over shame and disgrace. He had every right, according to the Law, to expose her, to shame her, even to take her life. But Matthew says he chose love because he was righteous. That changes righteousness for me forever.
Righteousness is defined as morally upright. Most people would say being righteous or moral is steering clear of any hint of sin or contamination or bad influence. And somehow we have come to think we have to choose between righteousness and love or morality and love or truth and love. And when push comes to shove, many would choose righteousness/morality/truth over love. But the false assumption hiding there is they have to make that choice at all. That love is somehow spineless and unable to make a proper stand for truth. That love cannot be adequately righteous. That if we love too much, we might fail morally.
And so we coin terms like “tough love” and “bold love” to make love more badass, but we end up making love mean and rude.
I think there’s so much more to righteousness than what we’ve been taught. If the only commandment Jesus gave was “love one another,” if he said the entire Law can be summed up in “love God and love people,” then I’d say love is pretty damn important. I’d say love is the foundation for truth and righteousness and morality. I’d say love drives and informs every character trait Jesus cultivates in us. I’d say love is the biggest thing we need to get and the greatest thing we can give. I’d say everything distills down to love.
Knowing that love is so crucial and so powerful, I’d also ask some questions:
What if morality is loving people instead of adhering to a strict code of behavior?
What if truth and love are not binary in nature but one and the same?
What if being righteous means loving people well even when our reputation is at stake?
Joseph got that. And Joseph was a badass at love.
John 13:34. John 15:12. Matthew 23:37-40. 1 John 4:12.