I have a great deal of admiration for Mary, the mother of our Lord. I do not pray to her, or through her, or any such thing. That is idolatry. But I admire her like I admire Sarah or Elizabeth or Abigail. One of the striking things about Mary is her courageous loyalty. Consider her famous response to the angel Gabriel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary’s first allegiance is to the Lord. She submits to the angel’s message, calling herself the Lord’s handmaid. And this is no minor thing. She has been greeted in a startling way with startling news. And no sooner has the angel departed than she “arose” and went “with haste” to her cousin Elizabeth. She obeys quickly, loyal to God and to His messenger. She is teachable, responsive to God’s leading, loyal to His command.
Later she is loyal to her husband Joseph who is himself a loyal man, faithful and responsive to God. He is “raised from sleep” and “did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife” (Matthew 1:24). In the next chapter the angel appears to Joseph in another dream, telling him to take Mary and the child to Egypt. And “he arose” and “took the young child and his mother by night and departed into Egypt” (2:14). Joseph is obedient to the angel’s command, and Mary is obedient to Joseph. She is faithful and loyal.
We can we learn from Mary’s example to us. She portrays a lesson of loyalty for us wives and daughters. She moves quickly in obedience and faith. Her first loyalty is to her Creator, the Lord of heaven and earth. He leads her through her husband, a faithful man himself. Loyalty and faithfulness are rewarded and blessed.
Sometimes women are quick to abandon their loyalties when a little pressure is applied,Â revealing the weak nature of their loyalty. A daughter may be quick to abandon the authority of a loving father, transferring her loyalty to another man against her father’s wishes. This is thin loyalty if it is so quickly overthrown.Â A wife may be quick to disobey her husband, to criticize him to her friends, or to drag her feet when he is trying to lead her. This is thin loyalty if it so quickly gives way. But a stubborn loyalty is a strong defense against foolishness. Loyalty and wisdom are good friends.
It is easy to be loyal when you agree with your father or your husband. But honoring and obeying your father is a commandment with a promise. A relationship unblessed by parents will not be blessed by God. A wife who refuses to follow her husband cannot expect God’s blessing to rest on her. (Of course, I am not talking about absolute authority here. If a father or husband is being disobedient himself, he has forfeited his authority, as we see in the case of Abigail and Nabal.)
The thing Christian women should want to cultivate is a hard-headed loyalty that withstands assault, a loyalty you can stomp on and it won’t crack. Loyalty to whom? First to God. Then to parents. This is later transferred at marriage to the husband.Â Of course even after marriage there will always be a loyalty to parents, but marriage is a legal transaction that should transfer the priority of loyalty from parents to husband.
Sometimes God tests our loyalty to see what it is made of. I have seen young women submit to their parents when they didn’t feel at all like it, and God blessed them for it and richly rewarded them down the road. But I have also seen them abandon their loyalty to their parents and subsequently wreck their lives. It is a serious thing to depart from the counsel of your parents. If it is done at all, it should be done on moral grounds and with an understanding of the gravity of such a departure.
I have seen wives submit joyfully to their husbands identifying with them in thick and thin. And I’ve seen wives abandon their husbands and children in shocking ways. All this is to say that Mary was loyal. She may have wavered a bit when she and her sons stood outside wanting to speak with Jesus in Matthew 12:46-50. I’m not sure what was going on there. But the course of her life, from the manger to the Cross, was one of faithful loyalty to God and to the means He would use to save the world.