I’m a big fan of a good love story. There’s literally nothing better than time spent under a blanket on a rainy day, with some chocolate and a great movie. If you grew up around the same time that I did, I hope you share the same love for that scene at the end of the Princess Diaries – the kiss in the garden with all the lights around them, and that foot-pop. About Time is a current favorite – greater than just a love story, it covers family, change, hope, life; fathers and sons, brothers and sisters; life moving on while some things stay the same. It’s got all of the warm-fuzzy-feeling moments, and Rachel McAdams – it might just be the perfect movie.
The Bible isn’t where I would usually go for a rom-com, but this is what we find in the book of Ruth; one which has rapidly become one of my favorite books. We meet Ruth, a Moabite woman, who met and married a man called Kilion; and we are introduced to her mother-in-law, Naomi, Kilion’s brother and sister-in-law. In a twist worthy of a Nicholas Sparks novel, at the beginning of the book of Ruth, Naomi’s husband and two sons all die, leaving Naomi alone with her two daughters in law.
Then, we see a beautiful scene, in which Naomi blesses her two daughters, and releases them to go and find a new life, new normal, new husband. One, Orpah, says goodbye and disappears into the sunset – but Ruth is stubborn:
“Don’t force me to leave you, don’t make me go home. Where you go I go; and where you live I live. Your people are my people, your God is my God; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God – not even death is going to come between us!” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Seems extreme, but you’ll find lines similar to this in most rom-coms; it’s refreshing to see loyalty not only towards a man, but towards a friend. In the rest of chapter one (Ruth has four chapters, and we’ll be going through one a week for the next four weeks), Ruth and Naomi make the journey together to Bethlehem, and start the next part of their life. We see the pain that Naomi is in, having lost her husband, two sons and now a daughter in law in a short space of time, but this sets the tone for what we see throughout the book of Ruth: real people, handling the same life that we all have to handle.
Death is what brought Naomi back to the place that it was right that she should be: a theologian called Matthew Henry says that “earth is made bitter to us, that heaven may be made dear”. Earth did not make sense to her – she had nothing left to stand on, nothing to hang her happiness on; but it was in this moment that she looked back at God, and found comfort and peace in a love that could not be found on earth.
Chapter one sets the scene for the epic love story that continues, but there are some incredible lessons that we can learn from Ruth here:
Faithfulness does not need to make sense.
“Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me – even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons – would you wait until they grew up?”… “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”. (Ruth 1:12-17)
Logic tells us to do the thing that would be best for our self preservation. Logic tells Ruth to move on, to go and find another husband and to enjoy her life; there is nothing that makes sense about her decision to stick with Naomi. But faithfulness does not need to make sense. Faithfulness trumps logic; but in faithfulness, we always see wisdom. In forgetting logic and pursuing faithfulness, Ruth found the place that God wanted her to be; faithfulness trumps logic.
This is the difference between Ruth and her sister-in-law Orpah: Orpah did not give her life up for Naomi, but it was Ruth that was chosen to be a part of God’s great plan. Here, Ruth represents the call that we all have, to pursue God in faithfulness – she did not choose the easy option, but stuck with Naomi as we are asked to stick with Jesus.
The power of faithfulness silences temptation – religion, which is not the same as faithfulness, is about doing things out of duty, but faithfulness is about living in relationships. We are not supposed to live in religion, but faithfulness and relationship: “Those who go in religious ways without a steadfast mind, stand like a door half open, which invites a thief; but resolution shuts and bolts the door, resists the enemy and forces him to flee” (Matthew Henry).
Ruth did not have to stick with Naomi, and nobody would have expected her to; but radical faithfulness called her to stay and love. Resolution is the “yes” that we give to God – it’s the decision that our soul makes to follow him, not out of religion but out of love.
This is my prayer, this is what I want my life to be: where you go I go, where you stay I stay – not out of religion, which is based on what I should do, but out of love for my friend Jesus. When we live in reliance on Jesus, our minds are steadfast: the door is locked and bolted, rather than left half open. We have this promise: that He will give perfect peace to those who trust in Him.
What does radical faithfulness to Jesus look like in your life?