For my past four blogs (here is Part 1), I have written about the Catholic and Protestant perspectives when it comes to praying to Mary and other saints. I thought I’d wrap up this series by writing about what Protestants can learn from Catholics when it comes to Mary, regardless of our doctrinal differences.
Over the years I have found that Protestants and Catholics tend to swing the pendulum in opposite directions. In other words, if Protestants advocate a certain doctrine, Catholics underemphasize it, and vice versa.
That is very true when it comes to the mother of Jesus. Since Catholics hold Mary in such high esteem (referring to her as the “Blessed Mother” and the “Queen of Heaven”), Protestants tend to treat Mary like nothing more than a footnote in Christian history.
Mary should be much more than a footnote.
I believe Protestants would do well to rediscover Mary, as her life is a model for discipleship all Christians should emulate.
For example, when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will be with child, she accepts her role knowing the potentially deadly ramifications of an unwed woman becoming pregnant, namely being stoned to death:
If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death . . . You must purge the evil from among you. — Deuteronomy 22:23-24 (NIV)
Imagine how the world would look if all Christians modeled Mary’s obedience to the Lord! If we said “Yes” to God, even if it meant risking our lives and our reputations in the process.
Mary is also a model for Christians in the praise they should give to God. After visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Mary sings a hymn of praise known to us as the Magnificat. Here are the first few lines:
“My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant…” (you can read the entire hymn in Luke 1:46-55).
Imagine God’s smile if all Christians praised God as Mary praised Him!
Finally, Mary is a model for those who suffer. When Jesus was a baby, Simeon proclaimed to Mary, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:25). The meaning of this verse came to life in the The Passion of the Christ directed by traditionalist Catholic Mel Gibson. Many Protestants like myself are guilty of not considering the anguish Mary must have gone through in seeing her Son die on the cross. Mel Gibson helped all Christians see the life of Jesus through the eyes of His blessed mother.
While Protestant Christians will never pray the Hail Mary, we ought to treat her as more than a footnote in Christian history.