Family by choice…

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Ruth 1:13 (Naomi the widow said to her two daughters-in-law) No, my daughters, (the loss of Elemilech and his two sons) has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the LORD has turned against me.” 14 Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “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. 17 Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the LORD do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” 18 When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

This book begins by telling us there was a famine in the land of Israel around Bethlehem, so a man of Bethlehem named Elemilech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons fled to Moab (a nation on the other side of the Dead Sea) in search of food. Unfortunately, after some years in Moab, Elemilech and both sons died, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law (Ruth and Orpah) to fend for themselves in Moab. Naomi decided to go back to Bethlehem and assumed Ruth and Orpah would remain in Moab (their ancestral home) to find new husbands. Orpha did just that. It was the sensible thing to do. However, as v.16-18 of our passage indicate, Ruth would not remain with her sister in Moab, but would stick with Ruth.

It’s not clear why Ruth would do such a thing, but it is touching nonetheless. I think we all long for someone like Ruth, one who would never dream of leaving our side. People like that are hard to find in our modern world. Whether it’s marriage or family connection or friendship, relationships can seem more temporary these days.

This is a great opportunity for the church. At its best the church can be a place of grace and healing for people who feel disconnected from relatives or distant friends. The church can be a family by choice rather than by blood. It has certainly become that for me. It’s my prayer that others can experience the church in that light. Lord let it be so. Amen.

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