There was a woman I know who fell in love and married a man from another culture, another religion, different ways very foreign to her known life. Her husband’s father had died before she met him, so she entered this single parent family wholeheartedly and her mother-in-law taught her a new way of living and loving where their house became a home and she felt she belonged. This was so true that when her husband died ten years into their marriage, she made this commitment to her mother-in-law:
“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” (Ruth 1: 16-17).
Humbly Ruth here gave up everything, expecting nothing, made a costly commitment of love and loyalty to an older woman after having lost her own husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law. And at the same time she was making a costly commitment to the God of Israel, who had allowed the great pain and disappointment in her own life.
Love proves itself when it chooses to pay a price.
- Are you willing to pay the price to love the people God brings in your path?
- Are you committed to love them and embrace the differences between you?
- Will you love them even when they disappoint you? Let you down? Disagree with you?
We don’t really know what it means to love another person until we have experienced pain with them and find we love them still. This is how God loves us, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). That is the love that God pours into our hearts by the Holy Spirit so that we may be able to love in an unlovely world.
So we like Ruth have to make a commitment to God first. Ruth was following her mother-in-law's commitment to her God and made it her own. She was therefore empowered by God to return the love to Naomi.
Commitments of love are infectious. Ruth had shown great kindness to Naomi, and later Boaz showed great kindness to Ruth in physical protection, providing food, and becoming her redeemer. Kindness is the fruit of the Spirit and is an evidence of the grace of God. God has a wonderful way of making sure that kindness given leads to kindness received. Ruth, who showed such great kindness to Naomi now received kindness that she did not expect. Boaz was offering protection to someone of another race. Even in the Old Testament, God was ready to receive all who would take refuge under His wings. God’s promise to Abraham was that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
God wants to grow your loving commitment so that people from every background can find a place in the family of God because love is infectious. The infectious kindness of Boaz empowered Ruth to take the risk to go to the threshing floor and lay by him and in essence ask him to marry her. She said, “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer" (Ruth 3:9).
I invite you to follow the example of Ruth and take a risky initiative of love for someone God brings for you to love. The book of Ruth reminds us that at one point, God’s plan of salvation flowed through one woman who decided to trust God and love a rather bitter old lady.
The extraordinary thing is that Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz all died without having any idea of what God would do as a result of their faithfulness. An older lady whose husband and sons had died and a younger woman who no doubt thought she would never have children found their lives caught up in God’s redeeming plan for the world.
Ephesians 6:7 says this: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
Never underestimate the significance of what God has given you to do. It may be a hidden costly commitment to a rather difficult person or a simple act of kindness to a foreigner you have never seen before. It may be an initiative of faith to get the will of God done. The most ordinary acts of faith and obedience can lead to most extraordinary results.