Done with “Or” – Embracing the “And” in Our Faith

Rev. Bradley Swire   -  

Have you ever found yourself paralyzed by choice? My wife certainly knows the feeling when she goes clothes shopping with me. The hardest decision for me is often between two options: “this shirt or that shirt, this tie or that tie.” I can spend what feels like an eternity weighing the pros and cons. How many of you can relate? Maybe it’s not clothes, but deciding what’s for dinner. The dialogue might go something like this: “What do you want for supper?” “I don’t care, what do you want?” “Doesn’t matter to me.” And so, we go back and forth, choosing between chicken or beef, potatoes or pasta, beans or peas.

Life constantly demands these “either-or” decisions. You probably made some this morning: sleep in or come to church, breakfast or extra sleep, milk, juice, or coffee. This week, I’ve been wrestling with the question: Must we always be bound by “either-or”? Is it possible to be done with “or”?

In Luke 10:38-42, we encounter a familiar story that seems to present an either-or situation. Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha. Martha immediately begins preparing dinner, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to His words. According to tradition, women were expected to work in the kitchen while the men gathered around the guest. Yet, Mary chooses to sit with Jesus, leaving Martha to handle the preparations alone. Understandably, Martha is upset and asks Jesus to send Mary to help her.

This story highlights numerous contrasting forces: contemplation vs. activity, productivity vs. relationship, duty vs. love. Often, we are inclined to champion one over the other, usually siding with Mary’s choice. However, this story doesn’t demand we choose between Mary and Martha. Instead, it invites us to see them as complements, embracing the “and” instead of the “or.”

Consider how a battery operates. It requires both a positive and a negative terminal to function. Without both, there is no complete circuit, and the battery is useless. Similarly, our spiritual lives require both listening to Jesus and serving Him. These aren’t opposing actions but parts of a unified whole. Listening to Jesus equips us to serve Him more effectively.

Jesus does not rebuke Martha for her work. Instead, He acknowledges that Mary has chosen what she needs most at that moment. Jesus’ point is not that Martha’s work is unimportant but that it’s not the priority for Mary right then. Both roles are necessary, and both have their time and place.

We often find ourselves in a Martha-Mary dichotomy, thinking we must choose between contemplation or activity, learning or doing. But in reality, our faith calls us to balance both. Just as Mary needed to listen, Martha’s preparations were also necessary. After all, they still needed to eat. The lesson is to recognize what is needed in the moment and embrace both aspects of our spiritual journey.

How many of us are ready to be done with the “or” mentality? What if we approached our walk with Christ with the “and” mindset? Imagine what we could achieve if we embraced both contemplation and action in our faith. I challenge each of you to reflect: Are you more like Mary, needing to learn and listen? Or are you like Martha, ready to serve? Our church needs both. Let’s move forward, not with “either-or,” but with “and.” Embrace the fullness of your calling, and watch how God works through you in harmony.