December 9, 2016
2 Peter 3:11-18
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son.
The recently released movie, Loving, is based on the true story of an interracial couple in the state of Virginia. Richard Loving, a white construction worker, falls in love with a local black woman and family friend, Mildred Jeter. In 1958 in the state of Virginia, it was illegal for the couple to get married. To get around that law, the couple got married in Washington, D.C. Upon their return to Virginia, Richard was arrested. The arrest triggers a string of legal battles that go all the way to the Supreme Court where, in a unanimous decision, the judges rule that laws prohibiting interracial marriage are unconstitutional.
The story of Ruth is also a love story that challenges boundaries. The main characters in the story are Ruth, a woman from Moab, and Boaz, an Israelite. The Old Testament Covenant law between God and the people of Israel restricted marriage with foreigners to guard against Israelites adopting pagan religions and cultures. [See Deuteronomy 23:3-6, Ezra 9]
Yet, despite the law, the Old Testament isn’t consistent on the issue. Mixed marriages often took place. In fact, Ruth had been previously married to an Israelite and after his death, she traveled to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi, who was also widowed. Yesterday’s Old Testament reading offered us the beautiful words that Ruth spoke to Naomi:
“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.
The point of all this is that the marriage of Ruth and Boaz produced a son, Obed, who became the father of Jesse; who became the father of David; and from that line we celebrated the birth of Jesus. God worked through those cultural differences to bring us a Savior, whose coming we anticipate in Advent.
The love story of Ruth and Boaz goes beyond what seems right according to the letter of the law, and enters into the Spirit of what God wants for us, love that values others, regardless of who they are or what they have or have not done.
While our sinful human nature leans toward dividing each other into groups and inventing irrational prejudices; the story of Ruth, by contrast, demonstrates that as people of God, we are all in relationship with each other, despite our ethnic, cultural, or other differences. Relationships that are important to us require us to be intentional in our care and nurture of them.
As Christians, it is imperative to be as loving with one another as God has been with us; to break through the limitations of our excuses, to destroy all reasons that we might offer to treat one person as less than another and to build relationships with each other that are based upon our equality before God. It is an important responsibility we all share as people of God and followers of Christ.
O God, Creator of the heavens and of earth, help us to see one another through eyes enlightened by understanding and compassion. Help us to listen to the voices of all our sisters and brothers throughout the world with respect and attention. Open our ears to the cries of those who have been denied their rights and their dignity. Empower us to be instruments of justice for all, for in the wholeness of Christ, we are all one. Amen[*]