This week’s text (in the book of Ruth) is a familiar text. It is often used in weddings to highlight the commitment between a husband and wife. It probably sounds familiar to you.
(Ruth 1:16–17 NIV) Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.
While the context is not always highlighted in weddings, Ruth is making a firm commitment to her mother-in-law. It is worth noting that her decision to relocate with Naomi to Bethlehem offered her little benefit. She was far more likely to find a husband in her homeland. She vows to stick with Naomi at considerable cost.
It is difficult to read this passage without thinking of Jesus’ words of cost and commitment. Certainly, Jesus gave up much to enter our world. Paul tells us that he
(Philippians 2:7–8 NIV) made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
Jesus also calls his followers to the same sort of self-sacrificing posture.
(Matthew 10:39 NIV) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
We must be careful to highlight the difficulties of Ruth’s remaining with Naomi at this point in the story. We cannot skim over this to get on with the story. It is also worth noting that Ruth’s following Naomi was linked with her following God. If she returned to Moab, she would likely return to Moabite idol worship. In other words, she follows Naomi, follows God with a posture of sacrifice.
In a world where sacrifice often depends on benefit, it is hard to wrap our minds around Ruth’s willingness to go with Naomi. She doesn’t go because she is promised reward. Her love for Naomi propels her relinquishment of her homeland and her way of life. I am reminded of Jesus’ words,
(Mark 10:29–31 NIV) “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
As we consider this part of the story, may we be challenged to give selflessly. May Ruth’s love (agape) for Naomi prompt us to lay our lives down for God.