Ruth has always been held up as one of those "quiet, godly women" who did the right thing, followed the rules, fell into a beautiful love story, and lived happily ever after.
I don't think so.
Let's spin her story with a few facts: The eventual great-grandmother of King David converted from a child-sacrificing religion to a self-sacrificing faith in Yahweh. When she made the jump (see Ruth 1:16), she gave up everything--family, heritage, culture, people, comfort, security, home--in exchange for an adopted God, an ungrateful mother-in-law, a new land and people, potential rejection, struggle, and hard work.
Upon arriving in her new town, she challenged the local landowner to "walk his talk" by allowing her to work his fields. She harvest grain by hand daily, sometimes hauling home 30 to 60 pounds on her back. She later challenged the landowner to obey his God by providing for his relatives through marriage. Yes, she proposed to him! And when she gave birth to her first son, she gave him over to the care of that now grateful mother-in-law.
Consider the followng commentary:
"Careful reexamination of the Hebrew text has effectively removed the shrink-wrap that for generations has encased Ruth. She emerges, not as the passive, deferential, demure woman we once thought we knew, but as a surprisingly gutsy risk taker. The young Moabite widow discards cultural protocol, her own hopes of happiness, and even plain reason when she embraces Naomi's terrifying God and binds herself for life to her mother-in-law. In one pivotal moment, Ruth's identity and center of gravity change forever. The rest of her story is a stunning (and at times shocking) chronicle of her efforts to live out what it means to be Yahweh's child."
Carolyn Custis James, The Gospel of Ruth
Becoming a child of Yahweh--and these days, we tend to call ourselves followers of Jesus, or Christians--involves more than saying a prayer and getting dunked. God expects action to follow faith. Ruth certainly lived her faith, dramatically! We are called to do the same: "serve one another," "love one another," "take up your cross and follow Me," "visit the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry," "if you love Me you'll do what I command you," "submit to one another," "forgive as I have forgiven you," "preach the Word," "go and make disciples"...
Yes, the Christian life resembles Ruth's life. It's full of risks, challenges, hard work, and sacrifice. It's full of grace, reward, blessing, joy, and peace.
It's worth it!
To those Stitches readers in the Collin County/McKinney area: FBC McKinney's women's ministry will be offering a 5-week study of Ruth starting in September 2009. Visit www.fbcmckinney.com for details on how to register. We'll work through Sandra Glahn's Coffee Cup Bible study, Premium Roast with Ruth, with a healthy dose of James's The Gospel of Ruth as a supplement. Join us!