Loving Like Mary
Some who say they follow Jesus still find loving their fellow humans an abhorrent notion. And as a passionate believer in Christ, I struggle to comprehend why anyone has a problem with this. My heart pulses so loudly with His love I am often surprised those outside my body cannot hear it beat. His love imbues me so full my eyes explode with tears of joy.
I believe we must love God and our neighbors in equal measure, as I believe Jesus commanded us to do.
Yet, unconditional love to some seems to be a concept beyond understanding, and as though there is cognitive dissonance holding Jesus and love in the same arms of faith. The truth is, they cannot be separated. Doing so would be to deny what Jesus said and came to do.
He tells us so often to love, how can we ignore him? I believe love cannot be separated from God for that is who He is at the core, and why He sent Jesus to us. I believe we must love God and our neighbors in equal measure, as I believe Jesus commanded us to do. (Matthew 5:44-48; Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 6:35; John 13:34-35; John 14:15; John 15:9-13)
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
He came to free us from the bonds of hatred, division and condemnation.
He came to embody the Father’s grace, forgive us our sins and lead us back into His embrace. He came to reassure us He would be with us forever in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit abiding within us.
Mary of Bethany, the younger sister of Martha and Lazarus, is a beautiful example of the outpouring of God’s lavish love. Her anointing of Jesus is written about in all four Gospels. Though the stories are each a bit different, Mary’s extravagant love comes through each author’s individual perspective.
Jesus is invited to a dinner in honor of the raising of Lazarus. The dinner is at the house of a Pharisee named Lazarus, who had been cured of leprosy. We don’t know how he was cured, but it may be likely he was cured by Jesus, who now has a Pharisee willing to hear him.
Martha is serving, the apostles are there, and in walks Mary, her hair uncovered. For Jewish women in the first century, covering their hair was considered to be a symbol of humility and propriety. That Mary entered a dinner of mixed company may be why she is referred to in Luke’s gospel as a “sinful woman.”
Recall when we were first introduced to Mary, we found her not in the kitchen preparing the meal with her older sister, but sitting with the male disciples at the feet of Jesus, and gaining His approval for doing so. (Luke 10:38-42). Her heart was in learning from this Teacher rather than the traditional role of serving.
When she came into this celebration dinner, knowing Jesus was there, she arrived, head uncovered, with an alabaster jar of spikenard, an expensive and potent perfumed oil. She did not greet her host, but instead walked directly to Jesus. With tears of love in her eyes, she began to anoint him with this oil, and knelt to wash his feet with her tears and her hair. “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:3)
Her love, like the nard, filled the house. When we love God as Mary did, our love will also permeate those around us like a lovely fragrance. When we love God so fully, so passionately, our love will automatically spill out to those around us, to our neighbors, even to our enemies. For if it doesn’t, then we are not loving God with all our hearts, all our minds, all our strength and all our soul.
Does loving God begin and end with loving our neighbor? “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” The commandments cannot be separated.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)
Those Love’s shoes are huge to fill. I pray we all learn from the Spirit to love God and our neighbors in equal measure as I believe Jesus commanded us to do.