Image: The Annunciation by Eustache Le Seuer
What if Mary and Joseph were modern day complementarians? Their story might look something like this:
(All of my imaginary narrative is in italics, so there are no questions as to what is Biblical, and what is made up.)
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
Mary responded, “I will have to talk to Joseph, and see what he thinks. As a woman, I can’t be certain whether or not there is really a calling on my life, especially if it seems like a calling that will put me in a place of prominence over Joseph. Although we are of equal value, he has spiritual authority over me, and he gets the final say in matters like this.”
Gabriel face-palmed himself and let out a sigh of exasperation.
Soon after, Mary went to Joseph and explained that God had called her to carry the Messiah in her womb, and that she would become pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Joseph was skeptical, because Mary was a woman, and easily deceived. He wondered if she had actually talked to an angel, and supposed that even if she had, she must have misunderstood her calling. It didn’t make sense to him that God would call her to a position as prominent as carrying the Son of God, and expect Joseph, a man, to take a back seat. No, it just didn’t seem right.
Joseph thought about it, and he felt that allowing Mary to pursue this “so-called calling” was going to upset their traditional marriage roles, therefore it couldn’t really be from God. After asking the advice of some wise male friends, he had to make the difficult decision to tell Mary, that this was not a calling from God, and there should be no more talk of babies from the Holy Spirit. Mary questioned the decision, saying that she really felt that God had a calling on her life, but Joseph reminded her that she was not equipped to make that determination on her own, so she submitted to his will.
Thank God for the faithfulness of Mary, who willingly replied, “I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to me be fulfilled.”
And thank God for Joseph’s faithfulness and humility in following Mary in her calling.