Have you ever considered that sometimes obeying God will make you look like a sinner? This is a seldom considered fact, but it happens a lot in the modern church as well as when it was in its first beginnings. Take a moment and read about the birth of Christ for a second and consider with me a few of the seldom thought of conflicts that it caused for Joseph and Mary.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” …Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife… -Matthew 1:18-21, 24
Here we see that Joseph, when he hears of Mary is considering to put her away secretly– or in other words end the engagement (which in that day and age would have required a writ of divorce). Why secretly though? Well since Joseph knew he wasn’t the father of the child it would be interpreted as adultery and Mary, should she be made a public example, would have to be stoned to death according to Mosaic Law. Joseph though, being a just man didn’t want that for Mary, so he decided to take some of the shame upon himself and end the marriage in secret. Then we see that the Lord appears to him and informs him that what Mary told him about the child being conceived of by the Holy Spirit is true– so Joseph obeys the Lord and takes her as his wife.
What isn’t considered though is the shame that this poor couple endured likely for the rest of their lives, especially from the so-called holy men of the day. The Pharisees even later on brought this up when questioning (or accusing rather) Jesus that they had not been born out of wedlock (as Jesus had, hinting at his so called bastard birth. See John 8:41). Why did God do it this way? Couldn’t have God waited until they were married and saved them the shame? Well, yes of course He could have, but that would have lent less credibility to Jesus being conceived of by the Holy Spirit. In verse 25 of Matthew 1 it says speaking of Joseph “and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son…” Joseph and Mary had not “known” each other in the Biblical sense since they were still in the engagement stage of their relationship; which meant that any pregnancy had to be the result of fornication, adultery, or a straight up miracle. Yet, in deciding to obey the Lord and wed Mary this man of God knew that it would mean the rest of the world would likely look upon him as a grotesque sinner. Mary had already taken this perceived, yet extremely honorable, shame upon herself as well when she agreed to it earlier.
All of this to make my point. Sometimes when we obey God it will bring shame upon us in the eyes of the world, or even more likely, in the eyes of the so-called righteous. I am not saying you can go off and do what ever you want, because you may actually be in sin and that’s no reason for rejoicing. There are though, few rare circumstances where God will call you to do something that other Christians will judge you for. That is why we must learn to fear the Lord and not men. We must aim to please the Lord and not others. If you know you are in obedience to God’s word, and only you and God will really know that for sure, then you have nothing to be concerned about if others are judging you for your life’s choices. Just focus on what you know God to be calling you to do and let everyone else say what they will. In the end it is before God’s judgment that we will stand or fall (Romans 14:4).
The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe. -Proverbs 29:25