One Woman’s Passion for Jesus

November 12, 2011

While my husband and I lived on the West Coast back in the 1990s, I met a sister at our church who soon became one of my closest friends. Her love for Jesus compelled her to minister to hurting women in ways I had never observed before. She possessed an incredible compassion for those who suffer from deep emotional pain, and she taught me about the path to God’s healing for broken hearts. She was never content to be superficial with people. She always wanted to serve in ways that mattered deeply to others.

In our church tradition, her manner of service was often considered unorthodox. She advocated for women whom others labeled odd, needy, weak, even immoral. She told good churchgoing folks facts they didn’t want to hear.

Fellow Christians knew nothing of her own pain-filled past nor of the soaring liberation from bondage she had experienced with God. They didn’t perceive people and issues the way she did, and they didn’t understand her emotional intensity. Therefore, they criticized her and marginalized her ministry. She never let them know, but every negative, suspicious comment wounded her deeply.

For over a decade now, she and I have lived on opposite sides of the country, but I recently found a gift for her in the Gospels—a woman who could have been her soul mate.

I came across her first in Luke 10 as she sat at the feet of Jesus listening to him teach. In this familiar narrative, her sister Martha stormed in from the kitchen: “My sister Mary just sits there while I do all the work. Tell her to come help me” (v. 38-42).

We know from John 11:5 that Jesus loved this family. Martha seemed totally comfortable complaining to Jesus and sure of his sympathies. Therefore, it’s probably safe to assume that at this point she had already developed a relationship with him and was most likely considered  a follower—one with a specific idea about how to serve and honor him. Mary’s response to Jesus was different from her sister’s. In fact, by sitting and learning from a religious teacher, she had chosen a thoroughly nontraditional activity for a woman of her time and place.

Mary came under attack again not long after Jesus had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead (John 12:1-8; Mark 14:1-11; Matthew 26:6-13). During dinner, Mary knelt beside Jesus and emptied an alabaster jar of expensive perfume over him.  This extravagant gesture made no sense to Judas or the other disciples (depending on which Gospel you read), and they were so upset that they scolded her harshly.  What a monumental waste, they told her.  That perfume could have been sold for a year’s wages and given to the poor.

Mary seems to have been a woman with a passionate love for Jesus. She wanted to be with him, to learn from him, to worship him, and to honor him with the sacrifice of an extremely valuable possession. Other followers of Jesus failed to empathize with her passion and her style of expressing it. They were so confident in their righteous indignation that at least twice they reprimanded Mary right under Jesus’s nose. I can imagine how their disdain must have stung her…

“What you did is different from what I think needs doing.”
“That’s not a traditional activity for a woman. It’s not her place. It’s not normal.”
“She should be helping me.”
“She’s being selfish.”
“That was a senseless waste.”
“It’s a misuse of valuable resources.”
“It’s appallingly passionate. I’m uncomfortable (embarrassed) by her display.”
“It’s not what we would do.”
“It’s plain foolish. It’s not even what Jesus would do.”
“It actually makes me angry that she would do that.”

Jesus extinguished their ire in both instances, as he rushed to Mary’s defense.

“I liked it.”

“She chose what is best.”

“She did a beautiful thing for me—more than even she realizes.”

“People are going to be talking about her response wherever the gospel is told.”

This is encouraging news for my good friend and for every woman who has experienced the destructive and uninformed criticism of fellow believers.  What a comfort to know that in the face of negativity from other Christians, Jesus comes to our defense, pleased with our sincere efforts, honored by our passion, and maybe even a bit proud that we have chosen a calling less traveled.

I am also going to remember that whenever I feel negative feelings about another woman’s ministry or response to God, I need to think again. What is it about her actions that make me feel upset? Is it more likely that I feel defensive or convicted by her passion? Do I really know enough about her to judge her? If I’m truly concerned about her relationship with God, should I walk alongside her and get to know instead of complaining from a distance?

Heaven forbid I find myself in the shoes of Martha or Judas, sniping at a sister in the very moment she is making Jesus completely happy.

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.
And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”
Romans 14:4

2 responses to “One Woman’s Passion for Jesus”

  1. I love to read your stories. Your gift for writing eloquently is explosive. I would like to talk to you about being judged in serving. I will work at formulating my thoughts so I will be able to better express them.

  2. Tam Mathews says:

    Jesus . . . the true servant! The true picture of compassion! “One Woman’s Passion for Jesus” another woman’s gift to serve and support.

    Thank you God for Lynn, thank you in so many, many ways!

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