“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
17 Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!” (Ruth 1:16-17)
This famous passage is often used at weddings to declare a lifetime of faithfulness between two people preparing to share their wedding vows. It is rooted in the faithfulness that we embody when we look like God.
Ruth was a foreigner to the Jewish people. She had married a Jewish man and he had died. Her mother-in-law had urged her to go home to the people where she had grown up. Ruth could find a new husband, establish a home, re-engage the religion of her own ancestors and her mother-in-law would head back to Israel alone to live out her days.
But Ruth will have none of this. She had committed to not only the husband she had, but in the process she has become a part of his family. Her loyalty was not going to stop with her husband’s death. Ruth would not abandon this woman whom she loved so deeply. No, she would be sure to stay with her for her entire life.
This image of commitment is grounded in how we are to be when we look most like God. We hear stories all the time of people who have a struggle and rather than deal with it, they flee to easier places and abandon those they claim to love. But Ruth, who would find her way into the family tree of Jesus, is lifted up for the way her actions mirror the actions of God. She is loving, hospitable, committed and unwilling to let hardship stand in the way of love. In some ways, only the tests of hardship demonstrate fully how strong the love actually is.
That’s what the cross of Jesus shows us. In the midst of hardship and pain, Jesus had the power to flee and avoid the cross. He could have simply bailed on the entire project to share God’s deep love and commitment to humanity. But love refuses to back out just because it’s hard. Ruth gives us a glimpse of the kind of love God created humankind to have. Jesus makes it not only real on a larger scale, but the risen Christ also empowers us to love like that as well.