I am reading a new translation of the New Testament. It’s called the Voice: Reader’s New Testament. Produced by the Ecclesia Bible Society and published by Thomas Nelson, it is an attempt to present the New Testament in a more narrative form, to emphasize the flow and the beauty of the Gospel story as it unfolds through the various writers God inspired to pass along its revelation.
Today I was rereading Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus. Joseph has received the news that Mary, the woman to whom he is engaged is pregnant. This was a scandal in that day, one that sometimes had life or death consequences. Certainly a stigma that Mary would carry the rest of her life. the VOICE expresses Matthew 1:20 this way: “Now when Joseph had to act of his instincts, a messenger of the Lord came to him in a dream.”
That messenger then says, “… do not be afraid to wed Mary and bring her into your and your family as your wife. She did not sneak off and sleep with someone else, — rather, she conceived the baby she now carries through the miraculous wonderworking of the Holy Spirit …”
Joseph’s instincts were compassionate, caring, forgiving. By all measures his instincts were good ones, yet they were still that – instincts rather than the will of God. God generously provided Joseph with a revelation of His will. Having received that, Joseph chose obedience. His instincts would have marked him as a good man. His obedience marked him as a godly man.
The baseline for Christians is to be Christlike–letting God work in and through them. To be more than good–to be godly. To have more than the right instincts but to be listening for the will of God and obeying.