Most of us struggle with the ethical implications of knowing a scriptural stated value of God. Example: "Love your enemy" (Matthew 5:43-48). What does that mean? Does that include my wife when she sues me for a divorce? Does that include my husband when he abuses me? Does that include a teenage child when he or she is addicted to drugs, or to alcohol, or to both? Does that include war? Does that include a man or woman acting in ungodly ways in the church? How do I show love in each situation? Did that mean something then that is different now? Is the example to be seen in Jesus' dying on the cross?
What about letting your light shine (Matthew 5:16)? Does that apply to my work when I want to "fit in" on the line? What am I to do then? What am I to do in a meeting when people tell or laugh at ungodly jokes? How do I do it? What do I do when I hear racial slurs? What do I do if the person does not know what he/she said is a racial slur?
We could illustrate the challenges in numerous ways. It is one thing to have hypothetical Sunday class discussions in the "safe" environment of believers in Jesus Christ. It is quite another matter when I am in the "real world" environment. The issue is commonly the same: When a Christian is serious about his/her spiritual commitment, what should he/she do when he/she finds himself/herself in an ungodly situation?
The situation is real and great when we know the godly value. Isn't it likely it would be even greater when we are forced to deal with the unexpected and unknown?
One of Mary's admirable qualities was her reaction to the unexpected. She did NOT say this prayer: "Lord, I will do what You want as long as (a) I clearly know what You expect before You make Your request. (b) Your request seems reasonable and sensible to me."
When God sends His messenger (Gabriel) to Mary, she is likely a teenager, engaged, and quite aware of how women get pregnant. Note two things. (1) Gabriel's greeting distressed her. He called her "favored one" or "richly blessed woman." He said, "The Lord IS (or BE) with you." She thought, "Why would an angel refer to me in that way?" This greeting caused her significant anxiety. She found the statements confusing. If God sent you a compliment, and He had never said anything to you previously, would not such a compliment trouble you?
(2) Gabriel told her she had no reason to be afraid. Easy for Gabriel to say! Considering what he told her and the possible consequences involved (see Deuteronomy 22:23-27), that would almost seem to be an arrogant reassurance! If ever a person might feel "setup," this would be the occasion. From a human perspective, Gabriel had the audacity to suggest that what he was about to tell Mary was a blessing from God. Not many engaged Jewish people would regard Gabriel's message as a blessing! Not many Christians of today would regard Gabriel's message as a blessing!
Message one: You are pregnant. I know you are about to marry. I cannot yet tell you what your intended husband's reaction will be. He most assuredly knows this is not his child.
Message two: Your child will be a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be an unusual person. He will be called God's Son. He will fulfill the promise God made to King David (see 2 Samuel 7:13-16). He will rule over a kingdom that is permanent.
Today we might say, "Great! First, you tell me I am pregnant with a child who is not my fiance's. Second, you tell me this is a special child. And I am supposed to say this is a blessing?" Today, in the church, most of us would regard that as very bad news!
To make matters worse, Mary knew what Gabriel said was physically impossible. She was a virgin, and she knew she was virgin. She knew how pregnancy occurred. With her physical state of being a virgin, and with her knowledge of how children occur, she knew what Gabriel said simply was not possible. Thus, she asked how this could possibly be true.
From Gabriel's response, it sounds as if the pregnancy had not occurred yet. Basically, she was told it was possible because it would occur through the intent of God. Because it would occur through the intend of God, the son born would be called the Son of God.
Right! So she would tell her parents that she was pregnant because God made it happen. And that is what she would tell her friends. And that is what she would tell her fiance. And all of them would say, "Okay, if you say so." Right! As if no one knew how a pregnancy occurred? Gabriel's explanation: "Nothing is impossible with God." It would happen because God willed it to happen.
Mary's mind could have raced into instant overdrive. "How will I ever support this child? What will my fiance say and do? What will my parents say and do? Will I ever have another chance to marry? Who would want us?"
She could have reacted in that way. Instead, she said: "I am the Lord's slave. Be it done to me according to your word." "My parents may not believe me. My fiance may reject me (that was his initial intent--see Matthew 1:19). I may be an outcast among my people, or even subject to death. However, if this is the way the Lord wishes to use me, let Him use me to serve His purposes." What an incredible attitude!
For Thought And Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide
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