Sisters, sisters, There were never such devoted sisters, Never had to have a chaperone, no sir. I'm here to keep my eye on her. Caring, sharing, Every little thing that we are wearing. When a certain gentleman arrived from Rome, She wore the dress and I stayed home. All kinds of weather, We stick together, The same in the rain or sun. Two different faces, But in tight places, We think and we act as one.
This is a song from the movie White Christmas that I grew up watching every year at Christmas time. My sisters and I love this song and often joke around singing it together and acting it out on special occasions. It is a tongue-in-cheek song about the relationship between sisters and how they care about each other but it isn’t always smooth.
Growing up with four sisters, I know how this feels. While I love my sisters and would do anything for them, they are all very different from me and those differences can sometimes cause friction. With an age span of twenty one years from oldest to youngest there is an increased chance of miscommunication.
In the Bible there is a story about two sisters and their brother whom Jesus was very close to and fond of. Their names are Martha, Mary and Lazarus. And like most sisters their was some friction between them due to their differing personalities. If you have been raised in the Christian faith or been a believer for a length of time, you will be well acquainted with them. But for those who aren’t familiar with the Bible, let me tell you a bit about them.
Jesus first met this family when Martha invited Jesus into her home for dinner. Obviously, Martha had heard of Jesus and or heard Him speak and wanted to honour Him and know more. Now, the fact that the writer says it was Martha’s home tells us she was likely the oldest sibling and/or a widow.
In ancient near east times it was the expectation that women would prepare and serve the guests and this is what Martha was very busy doing. However Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to what He was teaching. Martha was annoyed and frustrated by this and, expecting this Rabbi to side with her, brought her complaint to Him. However, Jesus told Martha that she was in the wrong and Mary had chosen the right thing.
Even though it isn’t 100% clear whether Martha was older than her sister Mary, I always got the feeling she was because she seemed to be in charge and expected Mary’s help.
Are you a Martha or a Mary or are you like me and resonate with them both?
Some sisters relate to Martha more. They are doers, the servant-hearted, people whose love language is acts of service or those who like having life neatly under control.
Then there are the sisters who see themselves more as a Mary. Easy going, quiet, deep thinking, dreamers, knowledge sponges, and philosophers, that tend to be more impulsive or allow life to dictate how their days will go.
I have always seen myself in both women and empathized with both viewpoints. Yet it always seemed to me like Martha was portrayed as the “bad” sister and less loved and Mary was the “favoured” sister.
But if we look more closely at the gospels we see a different picture.
Now Martha was a doer. She liked to fuss and stress about making everything perfect for her guests. Her nature was outgoing, outspoken, controlling but with a servant heart. She also had the expectation that other women should be like her.
Mary, her sister, on the other hand, wasn’t as concerned with doing as listening, learning and soaking in more about Jesus’s message. Mary was quiet, reserved, a dreamer, a thinker, others might say she was lazy.
This is certainly what Martha’s complaint to Jesus was.
The Bible says Martha was “distracted” by all the things needing to be done to serve the guests. Life is distracting, isn’t it? There is always something or someone calling on your time and energy and it just seems to be keeps getting worse.
Jesus rebuked Martha for being “distracted” and not focusing on the important thing, Him, but that didn’t mean He didn’t love her. In John 11:5 the apostle tells us, “Jesus loved Martha”, just as much as Mary and Lazarus.
Jesus rebuked Martha out of love! He wanted her to learn what was most important, so she could be saved from her sin and learn to live more freely.
And she did. If we keep reading through to John 12: 1-3 we see that it tells us “Martha served”. Just that, without complaint or expectation of help from Mary. Martha had listened with a teachable heart and learned. She had dealt with her sin of pride and judgment and chosen to follow Christ’s example.
And so what about Mary, you may ask?
Mary was the younger sister; quiet, introverted, deep thinking, emotional. Now because of her personality, Mary was not one to bring attention to herself. But Jesus did it for her. He rebuked Martha in defence of Mary, pointing out that she had chosen the better thing in stopping, sitting at Jesus feet and listening. Jesus loved Mary for who she was, but also wanted more for her. And as Mary listened and learned, her faith grew and so did she.
In John 12, we see that Jesus again defends Mary but not for sitting quietly. Mary’s faith has taken her eyes off herself and put them squarely on Jesus. She boldly steps out in front of many people and breaks an expensive, alabaster jar, of expensive Indian oil and pours it on Jesus’ head and feet, even at the risk of condemnation by men.
So I ask again, are you a Martha or Mary?
Are you willing to stop and take the time to read God’s Word? Will you sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to what He has to tell you and learn?
Are you willing to let go of your comfort zone and step out in faith with Jesus?
The Lord loves you and welcomes you just as you are and for who you are but He wants more for you! He wants to free you from sin and fear. He wants you to see your sister in Christ through His loving eyes and not judge or hide but to encourage, forgive and seek to understand.
Friction between sisters is a fact of life but we don’t have to let it ruin our relationships. Is there a sister you need to encourage today? Is there one you need to forgive and reach out to? Is there someone you need to try to understand better? Ask the Holy Spirit for help and wisdom. Seek the love of the Lord to flow through you and out to her. It may take time and it won’t be easy but He will bless your efforts!
I am praying for you Sisters!