Summary: Authentic relationships are enhanced when I am faithful to others regardless of what’s in it for me

We live in a culture where loyalty seems to be an increasingly less valuable commodity. We see that reflected in many areas of our lives:

• We see that in our jobs. In my father’s generation, most people worked for one company for their entire adult lives. Although the average job tenure has risen slightly during the recent economic downturn, the average job tenure is still only 4.6 years.

• We certainly see that in the sports world. For the most part, fans may stay loyal to varying degrees, but free agency means that most athletes are not loyal to their owners, teams and fans. I am a lifelong diehard Cubs fan, but to be real honest, I can now only name a handful of players on the team. When I was younger it was certainly much easier to keep up with the rosters of my favorite teams.

• We see that in our neighborhoods. I lived in the same house from the time I started school all the way through college. And during that time, much of our neighborhood remained unchanged. But today, the average American moves once every 5 years.

• We see that when it comes to customer loyalty. In our desire to get the best value most people are no longer loyal to one brand or one place of business.

• We even see it in the church. According to a recent survey, each year 1 out every 7 adults will change churches.

I think that we would agree that these trends certainly make it more difficult to develop authentic relationships with others. So this week as we continue our series on Building Blocks for Authentic Relationships, we’re going to focus on the building block of loyalty.

Before we talk about that third building block, let’s take a moment to review the first two building blocks:

Two weeks ago we looked at the relationship between Abram and Lot and developed the first building block of selflessness, which we summarized like this:

Authentic relationships are enhanced when

I yield my rights in order to prevent unnecessary fights

Last week we develop the second building block of forgiveness from the account of Joseph and his brothers and summarized that building block like this:

Authentic relationships are enhanced when

I give up my right to hurt you for hurting me

This week, we’re going to be looking at the relationship between Naomi and Ruth. So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Ruth chapter 1. In that chapter we’re going to find that…

Authentic relationships are enhanced when

I am faithful to others regardless of what’s in it for me

As we read through this chapter, I’ll pause occasionally to make a few comments. Then we’ll close our time by identifying 3 characteristics of Biblical loyalty and think about how we can apply them in our relationships.

[1] In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. [2] The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. [3] But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. [4] These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, [5] and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

We are told that these events occur during the time of the judges. We also know that they took place three generations prior to the birth of David since we learn later in the book that Ruth is David’s great-grandmother (Ruth 14:18-22).

There is a famine in Bethlehem, which is quite ironic given that Bethlehem means “house of bread.” So Elimelech takes his family and goes to Moab in order to get food for his family.

Moab was the son who had been born out of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his oldest daughter (Genesis 19). He settled in the land which came to bear his name, a land which was located about 50 to 80 miles southeast of Bethlehem across the Jordan River. There, Elimelech’s two sons married Moabite women, which was a clear violation of God’s commands not to intermarry with foreign nations who served other gods.

While they are in Moab, Elimelech and his two sons all die and leave three widows – Naomi, Ruth and Orpah.

Let’s continue reading in verse 6:

[6] Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food. [7] So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. [8] But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.

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