Ruth said, “Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
This verse is one of the most famous lines in all of scripture. It is often used in weddings as a way of emphasizing the commitment of a new couple to each other in marriage. It speaks of deep loyalty, personal transformation and risk, and of a life committed to giving everything to a relationship that is important.
But like many famous quotes, when taken out of context it can lose some of its punch. It sounds so nice – a poetic line that speaks of love and commitment. Without the back story, it even sounds kind of sweet.
The back story is that Ruth is the daughter in law of Naomi. Naomi has lost her sons and is left with two daughter in laws who have no real reason to stick around. The women aren’t from the same national background, don’t share a common religious heritage, and with the sons/husbands now dead aren’t even really related any more. Naomi is smart enough to know that these two younger women need to get on with their lives and urges them to do just that. With a famine in the land and no men to support them, destitute poverty is the likely outcome. No, she will go back to Israel and scrounge out a living. The two young women should stay and get remarried to someone from their own backgrounds.
But Ruth will have none of that. Her marriage to Naomi’s son had also meant a connection to Naomi. Something in her heart wasn’t willing to leave Naomi to fend for herself – a sense of loyalty had set in that simply wouldn’t go away. It wouldn’t be easy but she would stay with Naomi and they would find a way to make it together. This sacrificial love would come with a price and life might be all the harder for it. But Ruth was willing, for the sake of love, to pay the price.
A story like this reminds all of us that love is a powerful thing when we see it at work. Reflect on your own life. Who has made a loving sacrifice for you that has made a difference in your life? What sacrifices have you made that have blessed someone else as a result? Give thanks for both the chance to be blessed and to be a blessing. Our last series on 1 John reminded us that “God is love.” Digging into the story of Ruth will give us a chance to see what love looks like in action.