Thursday, September 3, 2009

How Much Should Mary Be Honored?

These are dangerous waters. Dangerous days. To say only what the Scriptures say will land one in jail in some countries. In my land one can lose favor, or a job, or a reputation. Never has the whole Word been accepted by the whole Church. Nevertheless we keep digging for truth and passing it on when we find it. Let's take a look at some of the titles brother Luke gives to sister Mary, and compare these descriptions to the later interpretations of them.

Have you heard that Mary has been sinless since shortly after her conception? That she is seriously holy in every way, and is to be honored above all mortals? That she is the very Mother of God Himself? All of this and a lot more was derived from conversations in Luke 1.

The angel Gabriel's first word to Mary is where it all begins: "Hail." That's not a word of worship. It's a word of greeting. James (1:1) uses the same word to greet all the Jews scattered throughout his world. Many modern translations have used the more appropriate "Greetings." We say "hello", a word that derives from "hail" , and we mean nothing in particular except, the conversation has begun, I acknowledge you are here.

Hail becomes an awkward word to use in the context of the rote prayer, "Hail Mary, full of grace." Is the pray-er saying, "Greetings Mary..." ? That is what the word means.

Gabriel's "full of grace," has nothing to do with sinless perfection. "Highly favored" is the rendering in most translations. Who can dispute the claim Mary has to the favor of God? It is an amazing grace that allows the very son of God to be carried by a young, poor, unknown virgin of troubled Israel.

There is an equal grace, I think, namely that poor unknown sinners throughout this troubled world, subjects for whom Mary serves as a model, have been allowed to carry the Presence of God in them also, including the forgiveness of sins, power to serve, daily cleansing and sanctification. It is this same grace, Ephesians 1:6 , that has made us equally accepted in the heavens.

But none of us, Mary included, is worthy of worship. Grace humbles us to be worshiping the one who initiated the action. Mary was nothing before Jesus entered her life. So will we all say on that day. Because it is the truth.

Many, many people, in Scripture and out, have found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Remember Noah? Who is Noah, but one full of God's favor, allowed of God to save the world from utter destruction? But praise not Noah. Moses? The Deliverer? He would give all glory to God, and so will we. Mary? What a unique task. What high favor. What a wondrous opportunity. Never before, never after, shall one do such a thing.

But no statues called for. No prayers. No bowing. She did her part. She glorified God. No one in Scripture ever glorified her. So must it remain.

Another conversation in the same chapter is with Elizabeth. The Spirit of God enters this dear woman and calls Mary "blessed among women." Indeed! But in Judges 5:24, Jael, the woman who put a quick end to one of Israel's enemies, is honored with these same words. And honor to whom honor is due is the rule. All those who were given a task from God and performed it will be honored throughout history. But neither Jael nor Mary is to take upon her the glory due only to Him Who created us and died for us. God is jealous that way. He will not endure it. No one is to be lifted up before Him.

And then she is called by Elizabeth the "mother of my Lord." A little stretching of the language and you have "Mother of God." That's a subtle jump from Christian to pagan thought. Many early believers seem to have used this term, and we can almost justify it, because Jesus truly is God. God the Son. And there is a sense in which Jesus and the Father are one. But there the whole teaching breaks down and needs to be discarded. Mary is not the mother of the Father God. Nor is she the source of the Spirit of God, as early Christians were taught on their way to heresy.

She is Mary. In one isolated moment of Divine visitation she was permitted to bear in her body the Lord Christ. Hers was the humanity added to the Divinity. She was the mother of the One called Jesus. She was responsible then for directing Him to His Heavenly Father, a task well on its way by age 12. Then, like John the Baptist, she was to back off. In the story of the Bible, she is essentially gone from the picture after the resurrection story.

It is that balance of emphasis for which we must strive. We love her for what she did. No one else did it. But it was grace. And we honor Him who gave her the grace, as she did. Her role has long since ceased in Jesus' life. But the grace of God continues to move around the world, calling one here and one there to experience that same life of Christ. Those who say yes, as Mary did, will live with Mary, but especially with Jesus, forever.

My work is regularly dedicated to North Korean believers. Join me, will you, in prayer for the North Korean land today, that God will call many into His Heavenly Kingdom, so that when their life of suffering here is done they will be allowed to enter the Glorious Kingdom prepared for those who love Him. is a website made to ask believers to pray for North Korea. Recently I have added Bible teachings to the menu. There are nearly 300 blogs , a live news feed, lists of resources, picture essays, and ways to respond to the overwhelming need in North Korea. Let's love Chousen together! Contact me any time at Audio teachings at under my name.

And who am I? A man found of God over 50 years ago, called to the ministry, serving the Lord as needed in my world. Married, member of a local church in the Chicago area, with full time work in public education. Would love to fellowship with believers who respond.

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