Before the cries of ‘heresy’ are yelled out during this Merry season — bear with me! Reality dictates there are a lot of step-parent living situations and blended families in this day and age. If we take a look at Jesus we see that he was actually raised by his step-father, Joseph. Joseph thought about ditching Mary and not going through with the marriage when he found out that his virgin fiancee was pregnant with child. Thankfully, God accounted for Joseph’s normal human reaction and trying to get out of the relationship quickly and quietly. He actually sent in the big gun, Gabriel the Arch Angel, to reassure Joseph that actually the plan was still for Joseph to proceed with the marriage to Mary — that the whole “God placing the baby in his fiancee” was legit. Not the start of most step-parent realities but nonetheless, Joseph stepped boldly into the role of being step-Dad to one of the most famous historical figures of all time, Jesus Christ.
Maybe you’ve never thought of Joseph being a step-parent before but the Bible tells us that Jesus was the son of Mary and the son of God. Interestingly enough, the genealogy of Jesus as found in the Gospels, is NOT the genetic lineage of Mary his earthly mother but of Joseph. This is something that became clear to me one day as I was working on a lesson regarding the power of step-parenting. The lineage of Jesus Christ, back through King David and beyond, was the lineage of his step-parent. Wow. In my history of doing Biblical study as a seminary graduate, I have come to believe there are no coincidences with God or His word! If there is something spoken of in scripture, there’s a reason it’s there, and there’s a reason it’s spoken of in that way. Why was it spelled out that Jesus’ birthright and heritage was a result of who his step-father was? I don’t believe that is a coincidence but more of a God-incidence!
So what does it mean? Let me share a few ideas about that:
- Being a step-parent can be an extremely difficult and often thankless role. Have you ever thought what it must have been like to be in Joseph’s shoes? “Whoa, wait just a minute…now there’s a baby and it’s not even mine?” Having to deal with the cultural and historical reaction they would have faced for perceived impurity outside of marriage. Perhaps the thing that allowed Joseph and Mary to accept this new family arrangement so courageously was the clarity and peace they received from their faith — they knew God was in this! Joseph rose to the occasion and raised Jesus as his own son — even mentoring him into the family carpentry business. Notice that we don’t hear much about Joseph after those couple verses in the gospels. He has a fairly intense but background role as far as the growth and preparation of the Saviour of the world goes! His wife Mary, got most of the credit and has lots of songs and points of recognition. “Mary the mother of Jesus” is far more common than hearing about “Joseph the father of Jesus.”
- The impact of a step-parent’s character and commitment can make a difference. Joseph’s lineage secured an impressive genealogy for Jesus. Not only was King David in there — but Abraham, Isaac, and a couple of women. Never in Biblical genealogy were women included prior to this. Yet, this is the family background God chose to bring His son into. Joseph’s character is exhibited in his choice to obey God and go ahead and take Mary for his bride. He also took the role of being father to Jesus as a privilege and did it well. Some step-parents I’ve seen have not been so great in this role. They have wanted the spouse without the pre-existing children. This just never works! Blending a family is hard enough without someone who isn’t willing to accept a spouse with the child/children they already have. Joseph showed grit and commitment. He took Mary and Jesus — moved them a safe place and then listened to God when prompted to move them back to Nazareth. Joseph relied on his faith for strength, courage and wisdom. He gives us a pretty impressive template for how a step-parent’s character and commitment can make a world of difference.
- The power of a step-parent has limitless and sometimes unknown potential. Step-parenting is one of the most difficult things to do as a human being with our own bent towards selfishness. We can look at the example of Joseph to see how limitless the ripple effects of a good step-parent can be. I wonder if Jesus contemplated how fortunate he was to have such a good earthly father alongside of a good Heavenly Father. If you are in a blended family, don’t second-guess the potential good you can do in a step-parent role. It may not seem like it’s good at all. It may not FEEL like it’s making a difference. Love your spouse (their biological parent) and treat him/her with respect. Love those kids and raise them up in good and effective ways. Hang in for the long haul and consider the untapped potential that can come from loving someone else’s child/children as you would care for your own. Maybe be a little bit encouraged by the story of Joseph, a step-Dad who enabled his son to become all that God wanted him to be.