Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Parenting 101

ADAM AND EVE had perfect parenting and sinned. Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story: their (and our) fall was overcome when Jesus came through imperfect parenting to live a sinless life.

That’s no knock on Mary and Joseph; raising the Messiah is a pretty tall order. Still, you’ve got to wonder how embarrassing it must have been to admit you had lost God incarnate, that time they thought He was traveling with others in the group caravan to Jerusalem. Only to find the tween-aged Savior-in-training was still back at the temple, debating the elders.

While they surely didn’t get everything right, Mary and Joseph offer some good examples.

First, they were each devoted to God. Joseph was a “just man” (Matt. 1:19) committed to doing the right thing, and immediately obedient when God spoke (though, admittedly, having an angel speak to you in a dream is pretty compelling).

For her part, Mary also submitted to God’s will, but not in a wimpy kind of way. This spunky teen had some questions for the archangel about how this whole bearing-the-Son-of-God thing was going to work out. But in the end she declared, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

But what especially strikes me is something hinted at in the sketchy Incarnation accounts about the strength of their relationship—which is probably the most fundamental ingredient for good parenting.

They sure had some stuff to work through from the get-go. Scandalized that Mary was pregnant before their marriage, Joseph intended to divorce her quietly so as not to make a scene. That was gentlemanly of him, but he mustn’t have believed Mary when she (surely) told him all about the angel’s visit.

Give him his due, though: he didn’t fly off the handle and make a quick decision. Matthew 1:20 tells us that as “he considered these things,” the angel came to tell him Mary’s pregnancy was a miracle. And when he learned this, he changed his mind. He realized that he was wrong and admitted it. He was humble; something many of us guys probably need to practice.

For her part, Mary was surely hurt by Joseph’s initial reaction. But she does not seem to have held that against him, instead extending forgiveness. In the song of praise she offered when she visited her cousin, Elizabeth—who was carrying John the Baptist—Mary extolled the gift of God’s mercy “for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).

Humility and forgiveness. Not a bad foundation for a marriage, nor on which to build a home and raise a family.

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