I love the story of Ruth, as I’m sure many do. It’s just a lovely story; how it hasn’t been made and remade into a movie is beyond me. The way Boaz’s redemption of Ruth parallels Christ’s redemption of us is one that has been made many times, but it is not the topic of discussion I’d like to make here. Rather, something that has been on my mind recently is in the first chapter of the tiny book. Ruth and Naomi met in the land of Moab during a famine, where Ruth married Naomi’s son.
Both Ruth and Naomi’s husbands died, leaving them both widowed and destitute. Naomi tells Ruth and her other daughter in law to return to their homes and find new husbands, but rather than leaving for her own benefit, Ruth clings to Naomi, even after Naomi tells her: “And she said, ‘Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’But Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you,Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God’” (Ruth 1:15-16).
This level of love and loyalty is astonishing to me, Ruth was giving up everything to stay with Naomi, with no prospective benefit. One line that gets my attention is “your people will be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth wasn’t just leaving her home and her people, she was leaving her entire belief system and world view. This runs in contrast to her sister-in-law, who Naomi notes returned to her people and her gods (Ruth 1:15). Ruth was leaving what was familiar, comfortable, her tradition, and her identity so that she could be with someone she loved, and make room for a new and better God.
This is something that is easy for me to fail to appreciate if I don’t take time to recognize it. I grew up in a Christian household, but many people don’t. Many people grow up in a home with contrary, sometimes even antithetical, beliefs. Yet, when they come to know the grace and love of God they still choose to abandon their old lives, their old traditions, and their old gods, for something foreign and unfamiliar. I am humbled by that sacrifice as I never was asked to make it myself; I didn’t have to leave my people or my God when I accepted Jesus, I embraced them.
Not everyone is as lucky as I am. Some have to be what Jesus spoke about in His message in Luke 14:26-33, and die to themselves. Like Ruth, they have to be taken to the point where they have lost everything they have, before they are willing to give up who they are, so they can be brought to the One who will redeem them.