In the Gospel accounts, we learn almost nothing about Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. But there is much to emulate in the life of this unsung hero of the scriptures. We can see Joseph’s example for us in five words: compassion, kindness, conviction, courage, and quiet.

Here’s the situation. Joseph and Mary were betrothed. That means they are legally obligated to one another. It has the binding force of a marriage today. But typically, there would be one year between betrothal and the consummation of the marriage. During that time, the man would get his house ready (or build one or build a new room onto the family’s ancestral home) for his bride.

It is during this betrothal period that Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant. He, of course, knows that he is not the father. What we learn from Joseph that is worth emulating unfolds in two distinct phases.

In phase one, Joseph finds out Mary is pregnant. Again, he knows he’s not the father. Can you imagine him questioning Mary?

“Mary, just tell me the truth.”

“God did it.”

“Really, Mary? You really think God made you pregnant?”


The Bible tells us that Joseph was a just man and unwilling to put Mary to public shame, so he resolved to divorce her quietly.

Imagine Joseph’s conundrum. Mary is pregnant and she says that God did it. Either she is holding steadfast to a lie or, more likely, she has lost her sanity. Either way, Joseph’s response is one worth emulating: he has compassion for Mary, and he acts kindly toward her.

COMPASSION: No matter what is driving Mary’s explanation, something clearly isn’t right with her. Joseph’s heart goes out to her in her suffering (compassion).

KINDNESS: In his compassion, Joseph decides to treat Mary kindly. She doesn’t deserve to be stoned as an adulteress.

The kindness and compassion of Joseph in this difficult situation are worth emulating. You may find yourself in difficult or painful circumstances. Your first instinct might not be based in love. But consider the kindness and compassion of Joseph toward Mary when he thought she had either had an affair or lost her mind.

In phase two, an angel appears to Joseph to tell him that Mary is telling the truth.

Now Joseph has a different problem. He and Mary are only betrothed, and she is already pregnant. The people in Joseph’s village can do the math and they will assume that Mary and Joseph slept together before their wedding. Joseph and Mary would endure ongoing shame. Jesus would be considered to have been conceived out of wedlock.

Joseph could still have run from the situation to save his reputation. But once he knew what needed to be done, he took Mary as his wife regardless of what other people would say.

CONVICTION: Once Joseph knew what to do definitively, he held to it. Joseph lived with conviction. He didn’t choose what to believe or do based on what other people would think.

COURAGE: Joseph acted with courage. They lived in a very small town. They knew people would be whispering about them for years and probably never forget the timing of Jesus’ birth. Even though he was headed into difficulty, Joseph had the courage to face it.

This brings us to the fifth word: quietly. The very fact that we never hear about Joseph again (except once when Jesus was twelve and he is not named) tells us that Joseph courageously acted on his convictions with quietness. Joseph felt no need to announce his courage or brag about being chosen to raise Jesus. He just did what he needed to do.

Though we hear almost nothing about Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, we can learn from his compassion, kindness, conviction, courage, and quiet way of just doing what needed to be done.