By Andrea Lingle
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38–42
This story has always bothered me.
As a woman who is often distracted by many tasks, I have felt belittled—almost shamed—by this story. If there is “only need of one thing,” then what are we going to do when the clean clothes run out and the fridge is empty and the ring in the toilet is getting so aggressive that the kids are nervous?
What makes this story particularly hard is that in first century Jewish life those who were invited to and accepted at the feet of a rabbi were men. Perhaps allowing a female disciple into a masculine role made Jesus revolutionary then, but this story makes it very hard not to assume that Jesus is elevating the typical role and life of the masculine over the feminine.
As a woman, I don't want to be allowed into a male world, I want to live in the world as a woman. I want to live in a world that values the masculine and the feminine and the wild and wonderful mix of those that is found in me.
One of the things that I love about the Bible, and especially the Gospels, is that the writers allow a significant about of contradiction to hang out, forcing the reader to wrestle with rough edges. What does it mean for me, a woman writing in the twenty-first century whose life looks a lot like Martha’s, that the same rabbi who insisted that the first would be last dismisses Martha as less than?
That is exactly what is means to be Missional. To try to bear the Christ in a world full of contradictions. Of course there are many ways that Jesus’s behavior can be explained, but let’s just leave it there for a moment. What does it mean for me, as I go out into the world, that even Jesus probably had to go back and apologize for the way he said something?
In a world full of Things You Can’t Say, I am going to get something wrong. You are going to get something wrong. I am going to feel forgotten. I am going to hurt your feelings.
I really hope that Martha called Jesus on his insensitive words. I hope that Martha stopped trying to keep Mary in her proper role. I hope that Martha was able to relax, knowing that she is valued whether or not all the tasks are done. I also am so thankful that this stupid little story about sisters bickering at a dinner party made it into the story of good news. Even this counts. Even this little story, as clumsy as it is, is good news.
Sometimes the deepest wisdom that one finds in the missional life is this: You will not get it right. You will change your mind. You will have to go back and apologize. Just like Jesus.