Summary: Seeing love in the story of Ruth

One of the things we realize is that often we don’t love like we should. We’re not good lovers! Now, you might think you’re a pretty good lover -- at least your spouse thinks so. You show affection well. You give nice gifts to family members. You provide well for your family. You have meaningful conversation with others. But just how good are we at showing love? To help answer that question, we want to look at a love story today. The story of Ruth.

Turn with me to the book of Ruth, which is found on page ___ if you’re using one of the Bibles in the seat racks. We have been going through the OT, looking at the way God prepares a people for himself. Last week we looked at the book of Judges, and we saw an age of Chaos. A time when everyone did that which was right in his own eyes. The Jews had drifted away from following their God. And as a result, it ruined their lives. They went through several cycles of judgment for sin.

Right in the midst of that period, we find a beautiful love story. Humans are suckers for love stories. Especially for love that overcomes great obstacles. They make great “chick flicks” - the movies that you love to watch with the one you love. Let’s review the story of Ruth -

Read 1:1-2:3

And the story goes on - you know the rest - Ruth meets Boaz, Ruth marries Boaz - They all live happily ever after. There are a lot of lessons in Ruth for us - lessons about God’s redemption, about God’s provision for his people, about God’s timing - but the key lesson we want to look at briefly is the power of Prevailing Love.

As we look at the story today, keep this one question in mind: How well do I love?

In the book of Ruth, we see over and over again the concept of unconditional love. First, we see

1. We need to love regardless of conditions - It tells us this all takes place “In the days when the judges ruled.” This was a day when “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes” - as we see the phrase used over and over again in the book of Judges. Remember the “judges” were political / military / spiritual leaders who God raised up to deliver the Jews from times of oppression. But as soon as the Judges died, the Jews went back to their own ways again.

Yet, in a day when everyone is focused on “Himself”, we see love expressed for others over and over again. We see Ruth being willing to forsake her idols (for the Moabites worshiped the idol Chemosh), forsake her family, forsake her homeland, and go with Naomi wherever she went. We see Boaz, willing to give of his wealth, for Ruth and Naomi. We see Boaz totally rearranging his life to commit to taking Ruth in marriage, and with that came the care of Naomi as well.

We live in a society today that teaches us to look out for Number One. We love to show kindness and generosity when it fits in our schedule. If there is a fundraiser golf tournament, or if the company we work for is helping on a habitat for humanity house, we will get involved. But sometimes we don’t like to get involved when it is inconvenient for us.

Normally the times we need to show love the most are times when things are the messiest. A husband and wife are going through a divorce, and even though neither one really has a good reason, they get divorced. Either one or both turn to us, so what do we do. We can either avoid them, because it makes us uncomfortable, we can judge them and walk completely away from them, or we can show them unconditional love -- never justifying what they did or trying to ignore the wrong that was done - but being there as a friend to show them love.

It’s interesting that we never see Boaz or any of the Jews making snide remarks to Naomi - “If only your boys would have married good Jewish girls this would have never happened to them.” Instead all he has for Ruth is praise for her godly character.

2. We need to love regardless of culture - Ruth was a Moabitess. She is from the land of Moab, to the Southeast of Israel. And when we look at the time this is written, to have Ruth’s son be the grandfather of King David, whom we see in 1 Samuel, this is probably written somewhere near the beginning of the time of the Judges. Remember during the rise of Ehud as a deliverer, the Jews faced 18 years of oppression from the Moabites.

So Naomi lives with the Moabites, and takes Ruth, a Moabitess, back with her to live among the Jews. Imagine the talk that must have gone from house to house when Naomi returned. I can imagine everyone saying how Naomi got her punishment from God for going down to Moab, a dead husband and two dead sons. Ruth would have faced a lot of prejudice.

But Boaz never shows the least bit of prejudice. How could that be? One very likely reason is that his mother was Rahab the harlot. Rahab the Canaanite, who lived in the city of Jericho. We are told this in Matthew 1:5. Rahab knew what it was like to be the ethnic minority. And as a result, I believe she instilled in her son Boaz a respect and dignity for people who were different culturally.

*Lee Stokes attends here at Bethel. For Lee, there are daily prejudices he faces that we never face. He is a black man in a white culture. He lives with a very different understanding of prejudice that we do.

Far too often, we live with prejudice, not realizing how biased we are against others because of their race or skin color or gender or gender-preference. That leads me to point three -

3. We need to love regardless of our comfort zones. How easy is it for us to step out of our comfort zones to show love to others? What do you do when you work with a homosexual? In no way do we want to excuse away the sin, but we all too often fall into one of a few traps of Satan. Either we are so bitter that we are constantly rebuking and condemning them. Or, we excuse it away, saying it is just a lifestyle choice and their own decision. Or, we feel so uneasy that we just laugh it away and make fun of them or make fun with them about their lifestyle.

As Christians, I don’t believe any of those are viable options. We must love the sinner and hate the sin. We must stand firm on the truth that practicing homosexuality is sin - Leviticus 20:13 is clear how God feels: If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. Yet, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, the government is instituted to be the executer of God’s judgment. We are not to take action into our own hands and go out to kill gays or set fire to gay bars.

We need to stand firm on God’s truth. But at the same time we need to show God’s unconditional love to the homosexual. The only hope for their eternal salvation is the forgiveness that God can give - not just for their homosexuality, but for all their sins. But before we look at them, we need to look in the mirror and see ourselves and how detestable to a holy God our sins are. We are no better than them. We have nothing to boast of. We each need to say as Paul - I am the chief of sinners. It is only as we have experienced the amazing grace of a powerful God that we are able to extend that grace to others.

Think about Naomi - living in Moab - because her husband took her there. Scripture never tells us how she felt about it. Her sons marry two girls who are not every Jewish mothers dream for her sons. Yet Naomi embraces them and extends love to them. When her sons die, Naomi tries to send them away, but she has model such great love to them that Ruth is unwilling to leave her side. Naomi returns home with a foreign daughter-in-law. The Moabites for 18 years raided and oppressed the Jews, destroying their crops, and Naomi returns with a Moabite daughter-in-law. Tell me there weren’t a few eyebrows raised! But Naomi is willing to step out of her comfort zone.

Look at the example of Jesus. Whom did he minister to? The handicapped (blind/lame), the ethnic groups (the Samaritans - the Jews wouldn’t even talk to), the outcasts (prostitutes/lepers / tax collectors). And he modeled to his disciples an amazing love and grace for these peoples who were out of the comfort zone of the normal Jew.

We need to follow his example as well. The true impact of this church in Owosso will not come from how nice a building we have, whether or not we have a radio or TV broadcast, whether or not we have the political “movers and shakers” in this church. Our true impact will come as we turn to everyone we meet and extend the true love of Christ to them in such a way that they can tell we are genuinely concerned for them. Those will be the bridges we build to be able to share God’s love in providing salvation for them.

In fact, the one group that Jesus had little time for was the Pharisees, the religious hypocrites, the church group who always looked at how good they looked to others. The sad fact is that often we get caught up in pleasing others in the church and we fail to truly reach out with the love of Christ to those outside our comfort zones. A fourth area we need to love is

4. We need to love regardless of complaints - Naomi is a complainer. In 1:11 we see her complaining to her daughters in law that she won’t have any more children. In chapter 2 we see her return to Bethlehem - “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

Do you know a complainer - a whiner? Maybe you live with one! Maybe you are one! It can be hard to show love when someone always has to look on the dark side of things. But let’s determine in our hearts that we will love in spite of any complaints they give.

5. We need to love continually - In 1:22 we see Ruth and Naomi return at the beginning of the barley harvest, which was right after passover in early spring. Ruth is out in Boaz’s fields till after the wheat harvest, which is 3 months later. For three months, Ruth consistently shines her character for Boaz to see. When Ruth comes to Boaz and meets him at the threshing floor, she asks him to cover her with his garment, which was the Jewish way of saying “will you marry me?” Boaz replies in 3:11 - All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. For three months Boaz had seen Ruth’s constant love for her mother-in-law and saw her noble character. So had everyone else in Bethlehem. And that continual love impacted Boaz’s life.

When we choose to consistently love others, if will make a profound impact on their lives.

This morning, this has not been a very deep lesson, but rather a very basic lesson to remind us of our need to love. We could do many more studies on the typology of a kinsman-redeemer and how that pictures Christ, but we need to first start by living out this simple lesson.

How do you love? Do you love just when things are going good, or even when things take a turn for the worse? When your boss in on your back, you spouse is nagging, and your kids want money, do you still exhibit love?

Do you love those who are different from you? Those of other races. Those of different social status. Those who don’t dress the same way as you.

Do you love those who are outside your comfort zone? The women’s libber at the office. The teenagers dressed in black with black lipstick and eye shadow in the walmart parking lot. The vagrant with the “homeless - no food - please give” sign on the corner intersection on the way to the mall.

Each one of us can be challenged today to be more intentional in showing the love of Christ. And the basis of our loving is that each one of us has been shown an amazing love that we never deserved. How can we then not freely impart that same type of love to others?

Let’s pray.