We know Joseph gets downplayed at Christmas. I suppose it is understandable. But let’s just take a moment to think about his role.
David Zimmerman in “Comic Book Character” notes that mankind takes on four major roles in the Bible. In the Bible, God clearly takes on the role of hero, not people. However, people do take on the role of:
1. Villain. As I noted in my book “Theo-Storying” is is not true that Satan is the primary villain of the Bible. We sometimes like to read it that way (very selective reading at that). Satan may be the villain in the heavenly realms, but on earth, we really have no competition. We fit the role of villain better. Satan is more of a partner of ours in our role.
2. Victim. While we may be the villain… we commonly are also victims in the Bible. Special place is given to the poor, the widow, the orphan, the alien, the marginalized. However, we all live in a world that is messed up, a world that we did not create. We sin, but we also are sinned against.
3. Witness. Mankind may be an active player in the drama… but we also serve as witnesses of what is going on on stage. In the Bible, we are called to act, but also to witness and report.
4. Partner. The position of hero in the Bible is already filled, but we have the option of partnering with God. In comic books, there are superheroes and sidekicks. The sidekick doesn’t take the limelight of the superhero, but helps bring success.
Okay, now let’s consider Joseph. Joseph was engaged (betrothed) to a woman who became pregnant outside of wedlock. The visit by the angel explaining the situation did not necessarily make things better. He was still stuck in a culturally very awkward situation. So look at the roles listed above:
A. Joseph was a Witness and Victim. He had no choice in this. He did not create the problem but found himself experiencing it.
B. Joseph rejected the role of Villain. It would have been easy to do. He could have rejected Mary… “putting her away”… quietly. He could have felt justified (legally and culturally) to be vengeful.
C. Joseph also rejected the role of Witness and Victim. Just because one is given a role, one still has a choice to embrace that role or reject it. Joseph could have passively focused on the injustice he found himself in. He could have backed away– a sulking victim, an uninvolved witness. But he didn’t.
D. Joseph embraced the role of Partner. He accepted the word of the angel, and accepted Mary. In so doing he chose to be the partner of Mary, with all of its joys and pains, and partner of God and His work.
We find ourselves dealing with these roles too. We are victims… not sure there is anyone who is not. We are witnesses of what God is doing. We can embrace the role of the victim. We can embrace the role of a witness (whether involved or uninvolved). We can take on the role of the villain, seeking to thwart God’s work. Or we can partner with God. The choice is always there.