Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reputation or Character?

The well-known narrative of Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha nested in Luke 10:38-42 is a many faceted diamond; its beauty and blessing shine in multitudes of ways to those who listen.

Martha had her good hostess hat on. She welcomed Jesus into their home. It was important to her that the meal would be served just right. I get that. Hospitality is important to me too.

Martha had a reputation to preserve. And sometimes that is my driving motivation as well.

Mary's attention was on their guest. She sat in rapt attention. Listening.

FRUSTRATION! Mary's attentiveness to Jesus thwarted Martha's desires.

So Martha appealed to Jesus - surely he would help her cause.
"Lord, do you not care ..." 

Jesus did care; he cared a lot. 

Martha had a picture of what care looked like and in her mind, care wasn't happening. Oh, how I identify. I think I know best how care looks, how care feels.

He cared about Mary and he cared about Martha. His simple response revealed his heart for both ladies. I have a feeling Mary was listening quietly to this exchange. Would she be dismissed to the kitchen?
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled ... one thing is necessary ...
Mary has chosen the good ..."

Jesus responds to Martha first. You are ...  In those two little words, Jesus is communicating, 
Martha, I see you.
I see your serving.
I see your heart.
Listening to the care behind the words, I relax.
And, I see your frustration.

Then, he doesn't immediately turn to Mary, he transitions, he gentles his truth. 
"but one thing is necessary," 

By doing this he doesn't compare Mary to Martha. He notes Mary's heart, just as he noted Martha's.
"Mary has chosen the good ..."

Mary's concern was listening, her character.

Martha, your concern is good. But there is something even better.
I want you to see it.
I want you to get it.
I want you to have it.
I want you to listen.

Listening, in my experience, is the key to character. Not deciding to stop doing something (although sometimes that is involved); not deciding to start something; not deciding that I just don't care anymore and I pull the strings on my mask even tighter. 
All these possible goods are only good if they result from listening. Listening to God's heart for me; listening for his affirmations; listening to his truth.

And character melts away the importance of reputation. 

I will only have the courage to take off my mask if my character is more important to me than my reputation. 

Paul understood this too. He underscores his pedigree, his reputation in Philippians 3:3-6. But then he concludes that character is more important and comes from God.

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,
in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him,
not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
but that which comes through faith in Christ,
the righteousness from God that depends on faith - "
Philippians 3:7-9

Next Thursday Echoes of Grace speaks of Thanksgiving. Then the following Wednesday, December 2, Echoes is introducing the Advent posts for 2015. They will have a different format and I think will make your Advent celebration very special. The first Advent post is Thursday, December 3.