Naomi, Ruth and Boaz - A Story of HESED love

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Yesterday at Church we focused on the book of Ruth. We saw HESED love (the love that takes commitments seriously) through the examples of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Since we live in a post-commital society this story is almost shocking to us. The levels of commitment and servanthood exhibited in those few chapters of Ruth serve to show us examples of the sort of love God has for us and the sort of love we are to have for one another.

We ended our service together blessing and thanking the Lord for the mothers in the room. In our own community we often see HESED love manifested most strongly through them. So we as a Church wanted to thank the Lord for their service both in the home and in the workplace. We wanted to pray for them that they would continue to be strong and not grow weary in well-doing. We wanted to thank the Lord for His calling on their lives. We wanted to commission them to keep up the good work! As Christ serves us, so we want to be serving one another! Weird to do that when it isn't Mother's Day - but nonetheless - we aren't afraid to be outside the box every once in a while :) 

We had lots of people reflecting on the sermon via Twitter. If you want to check em out, go on Twitter and search the hashtag #hcpreach and you can see them all. For this post, I want to answer a few of the questions I received: 

‏@pian0dude How does khesed love compare with the other forms? Agape, etc. #hcpreach

Many of us have heard distinctions between different lovey words as they show up in the Greek New Testament (such as Agape) but for a lot of us, this Hebrew concept of love (HESED) was new - and so this is a great question! For one, it's important to realize that this Hebrew word is almost impossible to translate perfectly into English. It is a very loaded term. In fact, I believe it is one of the most loaded and powerful words in the entire Old Testament. Hebrew is a language very different than Greek and it works very differently. The Greek language allows for specificity in a way Hebrew doesn't. Categories of language are not as clear cut in Hebrew. So, the main difference is that HESED love is referring to a full-love with many qualities while different forms of love words in the Greek are particular words referring to particular types of love. So think of HESED love as a type of all-inclusive sort of love whereas some of the other types of love in the Greek are more one-dimensional and specific.

As I mentioned in the sermon - the word HESED has aspects of loyalty and steadfastness and faithfulness in the word itself. A great translation is "steadfast love" or "eternal love" or "unbelievable kindness," etc. HESED love is only occasionally seen within humanity but it is always seen in Christ. It's an almost untouchable word but when it enters into our post-committal world (as we see in the book of Ruth) HESED turns the world upside-down! This was true in the time of Judges which is the setting for the book of Ruth and it is true of our 21st century world today. 

@y_scully152 #HCPREACH emotionl rvnge, DT sht said "W/drwin my hart in ordr 2 pnish some1" Sumtmes people w/draw thr heart not 4 revnge but to protct it.

Great nuance here. This is one of the first times I've received a tweet regarding the Disciple Time discussion after the sermon. Very cool. I'd love to see more of these sorts of critiques in the future! As it said in the Disciple Time Lesson, "When life is difficult we are often tempted to lose sight of God’s faithfulness. This usually leads to several unhealthy responses. Read these five common examples of unhealthy responses to pain or difficulty:

1) Self-pity: Nourishing an internal-feeling of being a victim.
2) Bitterness: A simmering demand that God make my world better.
3) Cynicism and mocking: Seeking to restore balance by mocking other people.
4) Gossip and slander: An attempt to get people to notice my pain and/or make me look better than others.
5) Emotional revenge: Withdrawing my heart in order to punish someone else."

Your point is an important one and it refers to point #5. Sometimes when others hurt us, we have to put a healthy distance between us. Being a Christian doesn't mean we put up with anything and we allow people to unduly run us over emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. Sometimes our withdrawal is necessary for our own protection and stability. Especially in situations of abuse or neglect - separation must be maintained. But that withdrawal is not to be a way of punishing someone else - it is simply a healthy response designed for protection and stability and for our well-being. 

But in less dramatic situations, #5 can be an unhealthy response. So for example, let's say someone said something mean to you, and then you found out about it and then you approached this person and asked them why they would say this mean thing to you. At this point, they realize they were wrong, they sincerely apologize, they promise to try and never do that again, and they ask for your forgiveness. Now, what is the Christian thing to do? (Notice I didn't ask what would you want to do at this point?! :) The Christian thing to do would probably be to forgive that person and to seek reconciliation. But if you ignored their apology, walked off, and withdrew from them for an extended period of time in order to make them "feel the pain of their own sin" then that would be an unhealthy response to pain. That would be an example of point #5. 

So your initial point is well-taken. As a Christian - Our responses to each pain in our life will depend on the context of that specific sort of pain. When dealing with pain - there is not much that falls in black-and-white categories. Each situation is unique. And when we think about difficulty - we want to avoid falling into common pitfalls while at the same time we want to show the world the same radical HESED love that Jesus showed us. So thanks for making that point - it certainly needed to be nuanced. 

@s7seraphim What is the difference in direction of Naomi in Ruth 1:15-16 and Jesus in Matt 8:21-22? Is it culture in respective time frames? #HCPREACH

Wow, on my own I never would have paired these two passages together - great connection! This question will actually help us to know what the application ought to be from both passages and the answer will help us not to apply this story in unhelpful ways. In the Ruth passage, Naomi urges her daughter-in-law Ruth to leave but Ruth refuses to leave. Instead, Ruth commits to love Naomi forever. In the Matthew passage, Jesus is talking about the cost of following Him and a follower in the crowd said, "Well, before I come and follow you, let me go and bury my father" and Jesus says, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." In the first passage Ruth stays with her family. In the second passage, Jesus says "I must come first before your family." God sometimes calls us to stay with our family. And sometimes God calls us to leave our family. How could this be? 

I think these passages are less contradictory than they would seem at first since the contexts of the respective stories are completely different from each other. I think when Ruth makes that commitment, she is putting her neighbor above herself. In this way she is willingly entering into a worse sort of life for the sake of Naomi. Naomi had no one else to help her and Naomi was not trying to manipulate Ruth to stay with her. Naomi knew the best thing for Ruth was for Ruth to separate but Ruth decides to make a sacrifice for Naomi. In this instance, what we see is HESED love. This is a very unique situation with a unique request and a unique answer. But let's be careful here: This doesn't mean our response to our families in every situation should be as Ruths' was. That would be to commit the fallacy of universalizing a story where it isn't meant to be universalized. The Matthew passage makes this clear for us. The right answer is not always the one Ruth gives. It all depends on the context. This passage in Ruth shouldn't be universalized in its application as if we should always do exactly what Ruth did. Instead, this story simply highlights for us one example of the sort of love that changes the world. HESED love is always beautiful and God is always pleased by it. But it looks different for all of us.  

In the second situation, this potential disciple was not putting HESED love first. He was finding "good," reasonable and seemingly legitimate reasons for not following Jesus. In this situation, the disciple in Matthew was using his family as an excuse to not follow the calling God had for him. He used His family as a reason to not follow Christ. Ruth used her family as THE WAY to show the world HESED love. These are the main differences between the two scenarios. 

This shows us that God's calling for each of us is usually difficult and it is always unique. And nothing is more important than God's calling in our lives - including even our families. I had to learn this lesson myself when God called me half-way across the country - AWAY from my extended family in order to begin the calling God had for my own life and for the life of my wife. Sometimes the way to show HESED love is to stick by our family to the end. Sometimes the way to show HESED love is to leave them behind! The question is always, "what is God's call for my life specifically and what sacrifices do I need to make in order to fulfill that call?"

God's call on each of our lives is different and unique and we should never let anyone else - no matter who they are - to get in the way of that. Many times, the tension is not between something bad and good. The tension is between something good and something better. God doesn't just want us to "do good things" or to blindly "make sacrifices for the sake of sacrifices." Family is great, but family is never to be first in our lives. God is to have that place all on His own! God wants us to be faithful to the calling He has in each of our lives. Ruth had this figured out. The disciple in Matthew didn't. But the calling to HESED love is always the same. We are all to HESED love one another - and we are all to do that in our own unique ways. 

I hope that makes sense! Next week we enter the period of the Kings. Get ready for some more Biblical drama! 

- Pastor Mike 

 

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