Six years ago, I wrote several short devotional thoughts for my church. I wanted to share them here and hope they will be meaningful to you as they were and still are to me.
Scripture: Ruth 1:16-18 (NIV)
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 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.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
When Ruth married her husband she probably never imagined that ten years later she would lose him and move to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law! Naomi didn’t have anything to offer to her daughter-in-laws – no more sons, no husband, nothing. She urges Orpah and Ruth to go back home to Moab and to try to find new husbands, but Ruth persists. She goes above and beyond her call of duty as a daughter-in-law, forsakes her home, her gods, her future, and becomes a foreigner in a new land with a woman whom she is not even related to by blood. Ruth takes on her new family with passion and heart – so much so that Naomi realizes that she cannot change Ruth’s mind. They return to Bethlehem together and we discover later that Ruth is the great grandmother to King David. No one could have anticipated the amazing impact that would come from a Moabite woman fiercely loving her family by setting aside her own wants and needs.
My husband and I are complete opposites, literally. I love reading People magazine, watching a ton of television, eating at chain restaurants, and listening to Top 40 music. My husband reads real books with chapters, rarely watches television, likes to eat at unique eateries, and listens to Indie, Folk, Jazz, and Opera – anything but Top 40! When we got married though, he indulged my love of chain restaurants, got me a TiVo so I wouldn’t miss any shows, and almost always lets me control the radio or iPod whenever we go on long drives. My husband learned to enjoy many of the things that I loved – my music became his music, my restaurants became his restaurants, and so on. He loved me, so he loved the things that I loved – from music to restaurants to people. He is my Ruth.
The way Ruth loved Naomi was something completely radical. She literally took the meaning of family and became one with Naomi – taking on Naomi’s God, Naomi’s homeland, Naomi’s people – only death could separate them. Ruth let go of everything to be with Naomi. She made it clear that Naomi was paramount to her.
In our ohana (or small group, family, community, etc.), we may find that not everyone loves Star Trek as much as we do, or that we’re not all fans of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, or that some of us love to only sing hymns during Sunday worship, or that our definitions of heaven and hell are different. Whatever it may be, we are called to love our ohana and that love encourages us to embrace one another completely – in our likes, dislikes, our agreements and disagreements. We may be total opposites, but the love of Christ unites us together as one family and nothing can take that love away from us.
Lord, help us to love and embrace one another the way that Ruth loved and embraced Naomi. We want to set aside our own wants and needs to completely love our brothers and sisters in a radical way. Not only do we want to love your brothers and sisters like this, but we also want to love all your people this way. Give us your strength when it’s difficult and hard to love. Remind us of the radical way that you love and embrace us. Amen.