July 5, 2010
Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go, and where you live, I’ll 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 itself is going to come between us!” Ruth 1:16-17
This summer I am looking at women of the Bible and thinking about what we can learn from them. Ruth and Naomi inspire me to think about friendship. Although there are many issues that can come up in this passage, the focus for me at this point is how Ruth became a loyal and true friend to Naomi. In spite of their ethnic and cultural differences, in spite of the risk Ruth would take to go to Bethlehem with Naomi as a foreigner and outsider in Israel, in spite of the hardships they would endure as two widows without any male head of household, Ruth took the harder path in choosing to stay with Naomi.
Of course, Naomi was also her mother-in-law, and in spite of the derogatory jokes we often hear about mothers-in-law, I have also witnessed great friendships that form between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law that last a life time even when the younger couple divorces. But the friendship between Ruth and Naomi goes farther than being just friends who love and respect each other. There is also a spiritual type of friendship. Ruth must have seen something in Naomi that inspired her to choose the God of Israel over the gods of Moab.
I wonder about my friendships and how I might witness my faith to my friends. Although many of my friends are pastors or already actively involved in churches and have a strong faith, maybe there are times when someone who is a potential friend might need to see how God works in and through me. I know my friends always inspire and challenge me to grow in my life and in my faith.
Maybe the questions really are: Am I supportive enough? Do I tell them often enough how much they mean to me? Am I willing to challenge them? We can look to Christ as an example for friendship, too. Jesus was caring, connected, trusting, yet sometimes frustrated with his friends – his closest followers. In his human life, he experienced the same joys and frustrations we all experience in our relationships. Yet, he was steadfast in his love and support, in his patience and loyalty, in his tolerance and encouragement of them.
According to the genealogies, Ruth was Jesus ancestor. The qualities run in the family! My prayer is that I can learn from Ruth and her example as well as Jesus and his example. Maybe I need to let my friends know more often how much they mean to me and to find ways to support and encourage them better in their journeys. Most of all, I need to keep them in my prayers and connect with them in significant ways. Lots of food for thought!