Sometime in high school, I read Nathanial Hawthore’s book, The Scarlet Letter. Maybe you did, too, so let me refresh your memory. It’s set in seventeenth-century Boston, in a Puritan settlement. The main character, Hester Prynn, has an affair with a man who was not her husband and, out of the affair, has a baby named Pearl. Because of the affair, Hester is forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest to bring public shame as a punishment for her sin.
Oftentimes when someone is unfaithful in a relationship, there results in some sort of revenge to bring shame. The only time I’ve ever decorated someone’s yard with toilet paper was when a boy broke my friend’s heart. There is a movie about a boy cheating in a relationship and the title of the movie is, “John Tucker Must Die.” A little extreme, isn’t it?
There’s probably times when we all deserved some sort of scarlet letter. Maybe not the “A” for adulterer, but perhaps the “L” for liar or the “J” for jerk. Luke 6:42 says, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you fail to see the plank in your own eye?” We love to give revenge and pay others back for what they did wrong, but we really don’t like it when it’s the other way around.
Joseph may have felt hurt and betrayed by Mary, but he did not fly into a rage or wish to hurt her, even though that may have been accepted in that culture due to the circumstances. He did not want additional shame for her if he could help it.
The enemy wants us to feel shame, and when we project shame on each other, we are only helping the enemy. God is a righteous judge; it’s not our job to bring judgment and shame to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Is there anyone in your life who you have held back grace from because you didn’t think they deserved it? Is there anyone you need to reach out to today and extend grace to?