7-13-16 - Triangulation

This gospel story packs a lot of emotional complexity into five verses. We get a glimpse into Jesus’ relationship with these two sisters, and their relationship with one another. And we see a behavior pattern which is all too familiar to many of us – an unwillingness to communicate directly when disgruntled, and the attendant tendency to go to a third party for help. Martha has taken on a big task preparing dinner for Jesus and his friends, and she sees her sister sitting at Jesus’ feet, drinking in his teaching. Stressed, envious, and perhaps annoyed by other things about her sister, she pulls a classic triangulation move:

She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”

Let’s look at this passive aggressive remark in all its glory. “Lord, do you not care?” Martha begins by implying that if Jesus cared about her, he would have noticed how hard she was working and sought to fix it. How often do conflicts in our personal and professional relationships result from our overworking, or taking more responsibility in a situation than we need to, and then getting angry that someone has not read our mind and stepped in to save us from ourselves?

“My sister has left me to do all the work by myself.” She’s making a complaint about Mary, but addressing it to Jesus, letting Mary overhear it, as it were. Martha expresses abandonment and grievance, and doesn’t even trust Mary to hear her feelings directly. Have you ever had someone complain about you to someone else while you’re there? All that can do is make us feel guilty, not inspired to help.

“Tell her then to help me.” Instead of asking Mary for what she needs, Martha wants Jesus to do her work for her. Does she think Mary doesn't care about her? Does she have to bring in the “big guns?” Or does she want Jesus to prove that he cares by taking care of her emotionally?

The only time it’s appropriate to ask Jesus to act in someone else’s life is when we're praying for them to be blessed. If we feel they need correcting, protecting, convicting or forgiving, chances are we have an agenda that we should share with them honestly and directly. Say your piece, in love, without expecting a response, and then turn it over to God. You’ve done what you can. But don’t ask God or anyone else to be your messenger when you’ve got something to say.

When we’re able to be clear and direct with one another, we create freedom. Often we find our relationship with God becomes clearer too. And then we're better able to listen.

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