Every Christmas churches around the world reenact the story of the birth of Jesus. Proud parents look on as little Johnny leads little Sally down the church aisle pretending to be Joseph to her Mary.
Year after year as the tradition plays itself out people are touched by the sweetness of this young couple, lost in an unfriendly Bethlehem. Congregants smile and maybe shed a nostalgic tear as the children/magi gather around the altar to bring homage to the Christ child and his mother.
In every portrayal I have seen Joseph is left off in the corner. No one is looking at him, not the shepherds, not the magi. Joseph’s job is done when he gets the girl to the stable. But what a job that had to be!
“Love is not rude.” I Cor. 13: 5
Now that may seem rather a violent segue to you: Christmas story… Joseph… “Love is not rude” On the surface they don’t seem to have a lot to do with each other. Just bear with me.
“Love is not rude” is actually, “love is not aschēmoneō.
Here in 21st century America being rude means being impolite.
When your mother says, “Don’t be rude!”, she means “Stop burping at the table” or “Quit picking your nose in front of Aunt Rosie. She’ll never pay for those piano lessons you want so much.”
But in first century Corinth, When Paul wrote “Love is not rude.”, the word had a much different connotation. Rude to Paul was unseemly behavior that not only brought shame and reproach to you but to someone else as well.
Paul was saying, “Love does not engage in behavior that puts other people in a dishonorable light.”
In First Corinthians 7:36 Paul uses the word aschēmoneō when he is explaining how an unmarried man should treat the girl he is betrothed to.
“If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, [fn] if his [fn] passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry–it is no sin.” I Cor. 7:36 ESV
Paul is teaching that a man needs to marry his fiancée if his passions are strong and that he should not bring disgrace upon her by behaving in inappropriate ways with her outside of marriage.
You see love cannot bring disgrace on other people because it considers not only the wants of others but the honor of others as well. It is not love when a young man takes his girlfriend to bed and ruins her reputation. It is not friendship when a buddy asks you to break the law so that you can join his gang. It is biblical rudeness.
Let’s go back to Joseph. In the eyes of all Nazareth Joseph had the right to not only divorce Mary (even though they had not been officially married breaking of an engagement required a legal divorce in their culture) but to have her stoned to death. But Joseph was loving. He was not rude. He did not want to expose her to any dishonor if it could be avoided.
In the end and with a little prodding from God and His angels Joseph took away Mary’s dishonor and Jesus’ by becoming the earthly husband and father Heaven had appointed him to be.
Joseph was a man who protected the honor of his wife and the child she bore. In that way he was not rude. In that way he loved greatly.
What are some of the ways you can preserve the honor of those you love? How do you keep yourself from being rude?