Have you ever been trying to listen to someone talk, but you missed everything they said because of something happening around you? I imagine that was the case for Jesus’ disciples as he taught at Martha’s house. Sure, Jesus probably had some amazing things to teach, but something unusual was going on: Martha’s sister, Mary, was sitting there with them, listening to his teachings.
This, of course, is not strange to us, but it would have been for them. Any serious disciple of the time would be training to be a teacher themselves, and women were generally not allowed to teach in Jesus’ society. In fact, many teachers at the time did not permit women to even learn from them. But here was Jesus, intentionally stopping by the home of two sisters to give some exclusive teachings. And there was Mary, sitting at Jesus’s feet like a male disciple.
The disciples probably felt the sociological tension, as perhaps did Martha, who tried to wrangle Mary away from Jesus so she could help her serve everyone. Jesus’s response to Martha’s attempt? He explained that Mary’s choice to sit and listen was good and it would not be taken away from her. Jesus would not force Mary to follow the natural bend of society. He elevated women and broke cultural rules to lift them up. And so must Christian men today, if they are to truly image Christ.
Male pastors today often mention following the “Billy Graham Rule,” which stops them from meeting with women they aren’t married to (even though therapists and countless other professionals do this all the time with no problems). While I understand the caution here and know there’s wisdom involved, practicing this rule to a fault means that a male pastor will only ever give their private and exclusive advice to men, which is entirely unfair to half the human race. And why do they do this? Perhaps because they’re afraid of possible slander, or perhaps because they’re afraid they might accidentally have sex with the people they serve, which is a bit weird. Sure, we should be wise about our interactions with the other sex, but if our interactions or un-interactions de-empower women, I think we’ve missed the point.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Luke 10:38-42 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.