In When the Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd writes about how Mary, Martha’s sister, defied social taboos by entering the circle of men gathered around Jesus. Jesus doesn’t run her off but holds her up as an example of right devotion and focus. He recognizes the state of her heart.
A whole village in Samaria comes to know Jesus because Jesus defied taboos by being alone with a woman, and a Samaritan woman at that, shocking the disciples upon their return. Among many other instances that rile the Pharisees, Jesus eats at Matthew’s house with a whole gang of riff-raff. He’s right there in the midst of their raucous dinner, interacting and I’m sure, enjoying himself.
It was not only after Jesus’ resurrection that he walked through locked doors and broke open the gates of hell. He lived a life of freedom, challenging structures that choked out life and love and growth during his ministry on earth.
When we get caught up in appearances and propriety, I wonder if we put the gospel on lockdown. We substitute rules for grace, laws for love, fear for freedom, and caution for trust. We don’t allow people to risk and dream bold dreams for Christ because we’ve locked them into a prison of rules to keep them safe. We disregard mercy because it’s messy. It takes time to learn the state of someone’s heart, and most of us are so busy being good people that we don’t have time to look into another’s eyes and hear the cry of their heart.
Because Mary was bold enough to follow her heart, we have an example that shows us what Jesus desires from us—our still, listening selves, not people so busy doing for Jesus that they don’t know Jesus. We would do well to be as attentive as Mary, both to Jesus and to one another. You do not learn the state of another’s heart by their conformity to rules. The story of the rich young man, who followed all the rules but could not follow Jesus, shows us that. When a person desires to be with Christ at any cost, they will leave appearances and propriety in the dust in order to be with the One they desire most of all.