to the glory of God and the edification of people everywhere
Commitment to a New Community
Lesson 3 -- second quarter 2010
March 21, 2010
by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2010
Introductory questions to chew
Do loss and grief make me bitter?
How do I get on with living despite loss and grief?
How firmly do I believe that God does not deal with us carelessly?
Is dealing kindly with others part of my commitment to my family as well as others?
What do I do when I experience the hand of God against me?
How strong are my relationship cords to God's people?
Commitment to whom?
Today's printed text contains some beautiful words frequently used in Christian weddings. They fit so well in a Godly marriage ceremony. Interestingly, though, these words were originally uttered more than ten years after the wedding . . . and they were not directed toward the marriage partner at all. The words and the commitment they express were spoken by the "bride" to her mother-in-law. (Imagine the stir if this were done in a contemporary wedding!)
That aside, to whom do you think Ruth was committed? I believe she had three basic commitments, each at a different level on her scale of priorities.
Herself. This seems strange, doesn't it? However, if she had experienced no commitment to herself and her own well-being, it is doubtful she would have made the other two commitments. Every emotionally stable individual has a proper interest in personal well-being. However, it is only the spiritually mature ones who put their commitment to themselves in its proper place. And that place is last. That goes against the philosophy that we need to love ourselves first before we will be able to love others and God. That life view is utter rubbish. We don't love God because we love ourselves. No! "We love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). And two verses later we learn that our love for God generates our love for others: "He who loveth God love his brother also." So you see, self-love isn't first in our relationships and in our commitments.
Naomi. I know of no law or cultural expectation that demanded Ruth stick with her mother-in-law. I doubt there was any social or economic advantage involved either. On the face of it, it would seem that Ruth was making a loser's choice by opting to leave her own people and those social opportunities in favor of traveling to a strange land with her seemingly-depressed mother-in-law. So why would she do it? Love. She looked beyond her own needs to those of Naomi. And she looked beyond Naomi to Naomi's God . . . and her own God.
God. Ruth knew that staying in Moab with her people and her old gods would surely take her to spiritual ruin. She had come to know and love the God of her new people. His love had drawn her and won her. His love had become her love. He had become hers; she had become His. Though she might always be an outsider in a strange land, she knew that following through on her love-induced commitment to the God of Israel meant leaving behind her land and moving to Israel. No matter what it might mean to her own social status and economic well-being, she put God first. She wanted Him and to be His more than anything else.
Now we look inward. To whom are you committed and to what extent? If you want to spell joy in your life and with your life, Jesus must be first, then others, and yourself last. Let's not forget to keep all our commitments in their proper place and perspective.
The price of misplaced commitment
We noted already the potentially high social and economic costs Ruth faced in choosing the lot of a foreigner in a strange land among strange people. I wonder, though, if she even saw that as a cost or liability. I am convinced that she did consider the exorbitant eternal cost of placing her commitment among the people and gods of Moab. My friend, following Jesus may cost you quite a bit, but not following Him will cost you far more!
This concludes my comments based on the passage for the International Bible Study. To read my comments on the alternate lesson developed by Christian Light Publications, click here: God Forgives the Penitent.
Thoughts for the Week:
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