Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mary and the Good Samaritan: Bridging the gap between Christian service, and the Gospel.

I've recently been in a dialogue about the importance of Christian service and making sure is does not swamp out the proclamation of the Gospel. The question is basically should Christians be known for their acts of mercy, or the Gospel. Or as D. A Carson puts it "the debate (is) between those Christians who say that we should primarily be about the business of heralding the gospel and planting churches, and those who say that our responsibility as Christians extends to the relief of oppression, suffering, and poverty in all their forms." This Sunday I had the pleasure of listening to Jeff Greenman, Associate Dean of Biblical and Theological Studies and Professor of Christian Ethics at Wheaton College, preach at HoneyRock camp. Jeff's sermon came from Luke 10, and focused on the stories of The Good Samaritan, and Mary and Martha. The sermon reminded me of the forementioned dialogue, and stressed the missing primary business of Christians, listening to Jesus. The following is adapted from his sermon.

The Parable of the good Samaritan shows the way of Jesus.

The good Samaritan is our exemplar, our model. How can we "go and do likewise" like commanded by Jesus? The answer comes from the following story with Mary and Martha.

There are many false lessons that have been extracted from the story of Mary and Martha. The story is not about:
  • Mary as the symbol of contemplation over action
  • Mary as the symbol of the love of God over the love of people
  • Mary as the symbol of the Gospel as superior to Law
  • Or Mary as the symbol of Christianity being greater than Judaism
Rather, the actual concern of the text is found in verse 40.
40But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me."
Martha was distracted. The Greek implies Martha was distracted by service.

Mary is the Prime Exemplar of Attention to Jesus.
Mary takes the position of a student to Jesus. This was a radical ideas, of a women as a student of a rabbi. Yet her sister Martha, is pulled away from Jesus. She is trying to be a good hostess, she doesn't want to be rude, but she doesn't stop to listen. She is worried and upset, she's grumpy, and she even tells Jesus off.

Distracted Service
To be the good Samaritan, we must be like Mary. We must first listen to Jesus before we serve. Otherwise we will see service as duty. Commentators have heaped tons of scorn on Martha. But how often have we been like Martha, going through the motions, yet not paying attention to Jesus. Those of us in ministry are often the worst at this. We focus so much on doing the work of God, we forget to listen to Him. There is nothing wrong about service or busyness, but we must first listen.

We all know what it is like to be like Martha, I hope we can all learn to be like the Good Samaritan, it means we must first learn to listen like Mary.


Anonymous said...

What did Jesus say we must do to get to heaven? I thought it was "sell everything, give your money to the poor and follow me (or something like that)." How many "Christians" really do that? So, if they don't do it, then aren't they a bit full of sumthin?

Anonymous said...

That was really encouraging.