Strange Love – Ruth 3:1-18 – Pastor Eric
What does true love look like?
The marriage proposal between Ruth and Boaz was not ideal by any means, and it can be described by words like strange, awkward, and just plain weird. Yet, it is a powerful story of love, and it teaches us what true love is and looks like. This story dispels the world’s lies of fantasy love, romance, or Disney fairy tales especially as our world is crying out for love in every circle of life with broken families, shelter in place living, and civil injustice.
This story profoundly challenges us to see that true love is shockingly selfless to the very end because that’s what God’s love is like. True love is hard and strange at moments, yet surprising, and a love that seeks the benefit of the other person just as Christ did for us.
1) True love is committed to the very end. It is a loyal and steadfast love. It is a forever and eternal love. This type of love is not contractual: if you do this, then I’ll do that or if you love me the right way, then I’ll love you back. That’s an earthly agreement, not love. True love goes all the way no matter the circumstances. (Ruth 3:1-5)
This story takes place during the times of the judges when injustices were very present, and there was a famine in the land. So, these are dark days in the land of Israel like today with COVID-19 and the civil unrest that we see, yet God offers hope and love.
What is striking about this story isn’t the proposal, the make-up, or the uncovering of feet. The most striking thing is Ruth’s complete and full obedience to Naomi’s request as she says, “All that you say I will do.” There is no hesitation or objection just obedience and faithfulness. Ruth is really asking Boaz to marry her, and she could easily face rejection and embarrassment. Yet, she’s committed to Naomi and God.
So, ask yourself, “Are you committed to a love like that? Are you dedicated to walk with people no matter the cost? Are you willing to stick to your wedding vows? Will you carry the burdens of people in your community beyond just today?”
As you ask yourself these tough questions, you might say, “Sure, of course!” Then, you say, “but I will only if she does this or he does that?” You see there can’t be a but, or only if. Because the gospel doesn’t allow for it. God didn’t say “but, or only if you obey, only if you follow me, or only if you do XYZ.” Christ committed Himself to the cross without any buts or ifs, only with love.
2) True love seeks the interest of the other person first. It is others centered, not me centered. It’s not about my will or my ways, but it’s about what’s best for the other person. It initiates love toward how that person might need or want to be loved, not how I need or want to be loved. (Ruth 3:6-13)
Out of this strange proposal both Ruth and Boaz reflect selfless attitudes. They put the other person before themselves. Ruth thinks of Naomi and Boaz for there might be better marriage choices for her. Boaz thinks of Ruth for he knows there are more eligible bachelors. What Boaz does is selfless, because he puts God, His law, and Ruth before his own interests. They both reveal a wonderful selfless cycle of love.
Do you seek your own interests first with your spouse, your coworker, or your neighbor? Do you desire your own wishes in love and how you want to be loved? Do you love expecting to be loved back? If so, then that’s not true love, that’s self-centered and self-seeking love.
The bottom line is we all need to answer these questions, because we all need to answer to God! That’s who we have to answer to at the end of the day, God, not our spouses, not our strong-willed children, or our demanding bosses. We must answer to the Lord of the Universe and Savior of the World, Jesus Christ!
So, let us be others first people who love our spouses and who are patient with our kids. Let us love our neighbors by wearing a mask in public and keep 6 feet apart. Let us care for people who are different than us in color, political affiliation, and economic status. Let us be selfless people, just like Christ, who sacrificially loved us on the cross.
3) True love goes beyond what is comfortable. True love generously cares for the other people. It is like the gospel in that it goes far beyond obligation. It steps outside of what is secure in order to benefit someone else. True love gives beyond the norm. (Ruth 3:14-18)
Ruth holds out the very garment that she committed to love Boaz with, and Boaz fills it with more love. Boaz gives to Ruth six measures of barley grain, which is like a Costco size bag of rice. Ruth is not just gleaning the leftovers from Boaz’s farm, but she is given an abundance of support and love from him. Boaz goes beyond what is the norm and the requirement of him to compassionately love Ruth.
This is what the gospel is and what it looks like as Christ stepped down out of the comforts of Heaven’s glories into an insecure world of darkness and sin. Christ gives us what we don’t deserve for we deserve judgment and wrath, but God gives us an abundance of His everlasting grace and a glorious future in Heaven. The gospel not only pays for our sins, but it gifts us with the beautiful joy of God Himself, both now and forever. (Romans 5:6-8)
So, God has given you and me a good, strange, and hard proposal, an offer to write a new love story in our lives. And He asks you, "What will you do with My gospel, My proposal of love? What will you do with My cross-bearing love? Will you ignore it, reject it, or humbly commit to it? Will you allow Me, your Lord and Savior, to write a new story of love in your life?”
I pray that we all answer, “Yes! All that you say I will do.” Then, we will begin to live out true love, a love that shocks the world, and a strange love like God’s love.
Praise Songs: Hungry, Scandal of Grace, You Are My King (Amazing Love), And Can It Be, Doxology