Summary: At Christmas we are often entertained with amusing stories of sacrificial love such as "It’s a Wonderful Life" and "The Gift of the Magi". In the Word of God we find a true story of sacrificial love demonstrated by a woman named Ruth.

Sacrificial Love Ruth 1:11-18

Introduction: At Christmas we are often entertained with stories of sacrificial love. We are all familiar with Jimmy Steward’s role in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Steward, the hero, lives his life for others and when his back is against the wall and he is about the kill himself he ends up saving Clarence, the wingless guardian angel. In response Clarence grants the wish that all desperate people make, "I wish I had never been born." Yet in the end he is willing to sacrifice even that wish to help others. Some of us might remember O Henry’s "The Gift of the Magi," a Christmas story of sacrificial love. The characters are a husband and wife who take desperate measures to buy the other a present. Unfortunately, the wife sold her hair to buy her husband a watch fob, and the husband sold his watch to buy his wife a comb. While these stories are fiction, In the Word of God we find a true story of sacrificial love demonstrated by a woman named Ruth.

I. Ruth’s Sacrificial Love

A. Due to a famine in Israel, Naomi had moved with her husband and two sons to the land of Moab in search of food. Her sons married two women who are not Jews but Moabitic women, Ruth and Orpah. In a tragic series of events, all three of the men die. Naomi, widowed and sonless, decides that since the famine had ended in Israel she would return home. Concerned for their welfare, Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to find new husbands among their own people and make new lives for themselves, even though that would leave Naomi completely and utterly alone in the world. Orpah does leave Naomi. But Ruth makes a profound commitment out of sacrificial love and faith.

B. Ruth 1:16-17 “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. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me."

C. Ruth had everything to gain by returning to her Moabite Family.

1. She would be among her own relatives, childhood friends and people, the Moabites.

2. She likely would be able to find a Moabite husband.

3. Like Orpah if she returns to life among the Moabites, she would most likely find acceptance at the temples of Chemosh and the other Moabite gods.

4. She would be going home.

D. Ruth had everything to lose by remaining with and caring for Naomi.

1. The chances of her ever having a husband as Naomi were negligible as she was advanced in age. Listen to what Naomi says to her daughters-in-law.

• Ruth 1:11-13 “But Naomi replied, "Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me."

2. She would face prejudice and hatred as a woman from a despised people, the Moabites. The Jews hated the Moabites and held them in contempt.

3. She would have to turn her back on her religious upbringing to embrace the God of Israel.

E. Ruth was willing to give up her all out of the love God placed in her heart for her mother-in-law. Ruth was willing to leave everything she knew behind, in order to follow her mother-in-law into a foreign land and care for her. She would embrace the faith of Naomi and worship the Lord God. What a display of sacrificial love she showed here! She obviously viewed Naomi as someone who deserved her love and respect. And she was willing to do anything to prove that.

F. Because of Ruth’s trust in the Lord God and her sacrificial love, at Bethlehem, God orchestrates a beautiful love story that results in Ruth’s marriage to Boaz and becoming the great-grandmother of David and in the human lineage of Jesus Christ.

II. God’s Sacrificial Love

A. Bethlehem is the source of another demonstration f sacrificial love. For it was there that God brought the Sacrificial Lamb, Who would become the sacrifice for our sin, to be born in a manger.

B. 1 John 4:9-10 “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

C. God’s sacrificial love was costly. It cost Him His Son.

1. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

2. Sacrificial love took Jesus from the glory of heaven down to a manager in Bethlehem and up to a cross on the hill of Calvary.

3. Philippians 2:5-9 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

4. Ephesians 5:25b “...Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her”

D. In the time of Oliver Cromwell, "the iron man of England," an officer of his army was found to be a traitor, and Oliver Cromwell signed the death-warrant for him. An order was given that the next morning when the bell from a nearby church should ring at six o’clock that officer should be shot. The wife of the officer came into the room where Oliver Cromwell was and fell upon her knees and said, "Sir, won’t you pardon my husband?" "No," he said. "He has proved himself a traitor to the country and to the commonwealth. Tomorrow when the bell from the church steeple will ring at six o’clock, then he will be shot." Heartbroken, this woman of love went out of his presence. Oh, what she experienced! She did not sleep that night, of course. Early in the dawn long before sunrise the form of the wretched woman torn by grief in her heart, was seen hurrying toward the church steeple. Up she went, step by step until she reached where the large bell was hanging. A man perhaps ninety years of age both deaf and blind, received a few shillings a month for ringing the bell. The officer’s wife hid herself in the belfry and when that blind and deaf man began to take hold of the bell rope and pull the wife placed her hand between the brass tongue of the bell and the side and instead of striking the side if the bell, it struck the soft hand of the loving wife of that officer and no sound was heard. Then the man swung it the other way and the woman put her left hand upon the other side of the bell and it struck her left hand. For about five minutes it kept on striking against her hands until instead of fingers there were only shreds of flesh and blood left. Tears were flowing down the face of that woman in her suffering but she never made a sound, because she was suffering for a loved one. When the old man had finished she went down, the blood dripping to the floor, and she went to Cromwell, the man who had said her husband must die. She stretched forth her bleeding hands and said, "For the sake of these hands, won’t you forgive my husband?" Cromwell weakened and said, "Woman great is your love. Go in peace." Thus her husband was freed through an act of grace on the part of their Governor and in recognition of the love and the suffering of another. The hands of Jesus that formed man from the dust of the earth bear in them the marks of supreme self-sacrifice. Through his sacrificial death he provided for our pardon from sin. - adapted

E. Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

F. The love of Jesus for His church was a selfless, sacrificial love. Jesus loved the church. He loved sinners. He loved you and me so very much that He was willing to sacrifice His all.

G. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

III. A Call to Sacrificial love

A. God calls us to and rewards sacrificial love.

B. You can sacrifice without loving (I Cor. 13:3), but you cannot love without sacrificing. – David Mende

C. Sacrificial Love for God.

1. Matthew 22:37 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

2. Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

3. General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was once asked the secret of his success. General Booth hesitated a moment, then with tears streaming down his cheeks he replied, "I’ll tell you the secret; God had all of me there was to have. From the day I got the poor on my heart and a vision of what Christ could do, I made up my mind that God would have all there was of William Booth -- God had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will and all the influence of my life." The birth of the Salvation Army came about through a man who offered his life as a sacrifice to God.

What shall I give Thee, Master, Thou Who didst die for me?

Shall I give less of what I possess, When Thou gavest all to me?

What shall I give Thee, Master? Thou hast given all for me!

Thou didst leave Thy Home Above, To die on Calvary!

What shall I give Thee, Master? Thou hast given all for me!

Not just a part, or half of my heart, I will give all to Thee!

D. Sacrificial love for others

1. John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

2. The 17th century British preacher and writer John Bunyan said:"You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you." - "Learning Curve: Pass It On," Wm F Russell, in Home.

3. 1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

4. The story is told of a rice farmer who saved an entire village from destruction. From his hilltop farm he felt a rising earthquake and saw the distant ocean swiftly withdraw from the old shore line, like some prodigious animal crouching back for a leap. He knew that the leap would be a tidal wave. In the valley below, he saw his neighbors working low fields that would soon be flooded. He knew that he must somehow find a way to get all of them to run quickly to his hilltop! Otherwise they would be swept away by the tidal wave. His rice barns were dry as tinder. So, with a torch he set fire to his own barns and soon the fire alarms started ringing. His neighbors saw the smoke and rushed to help him. Then, from their safe perch they saw the tidal wave wash over the fields they had just left. In a flash they knew not only who had saved them but what their salvation had cost their benefactor. He had willingly surrendered his entire farm to the flames so that his fellow men and women would be rescued. They later erected a monument to his memory bearing the motto, "He gave us all he had, and gave gladly." Surely the same words could be said of our heavenly Father and the gift of his only begotten Son! - "Knight’s Sermon Illustrations"

Conclusion: Have you received the gift of Christ’s sacrificial love? Romans 6:23 tells us “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In receiving that gift you are given the privilege of being a child of God (John 1:12).

If you have received that gift, what are you willing to sacrifice out of love for Christ? Are you willing to demonstrate your love to Christ in sacrificial love to the body of Christ? To the lost in our community? To those who are unlovely? What will you do? What will you give? Who will you go to with the love of Christ?