Why do you do what you do? Has it ever happened where you do something even though every rational thought and logical sense would tell you not to? Maybe you give the person a second chance. Maybe you do without so that someone else doesn’t have to. Why do yo do those things that don’t really seem to benefit you in any way?
Well, if you’re a Christian reading this, God’s word has an answer for that. You see, faith and sense don’t always go hand in hand. Love and logic are not necessarily companions.
The section of God’s Word we look at today comes from Ruth 1. It’s the story of a woman who makes what seems to be a foolish decision.
Ruth was a Moabite woman who married an Israelite man whose family had fled famine in Israel. Long story short: All the men of the family died and all that was left was the old lady (Ruth’s mother-in-law) Naomi, and Ruth and her Moabite sister-in-law. They had no one to provide for them, no land, no food, no hope. So Naomi decided to move back to Israel and tried to say goodbye to Ruth and Orpah because it made no sense for those Moabite women to come to Israel where the men there would see them as foreigners and their best hope was to be beggars along with Naomi.
Now look at that decision for Ruth: She could go to a home she knew, with a family to take care of her, with the option to marry and settle down and have a family, with safety secured and all of this in the place she was familiar with. Or, she could go with Naomi and have nothing and be nothing. So, of course, she chose to give up everything and move to Israel.
That doesn’t make sense, until you see that she didn’t make her decision on what made sense, but she let faith decide and looked for where she could love. This is her answer in Verse 16: "Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." Did you catch it? Most of her answer really isn’t an answer. As much as she called Naomi’s people her people, no self-respecting Israelite would say the same about a Moabite like Ruth. But there was something in there that makes this irrational decision make perfect sense: Verse 16, "Your God is my God."
That made all the difference. Ruth had learned of God’s love for her. Faith in the Lord was leading this journey. He was not Chemosh, the god Ruth would have likely grown up with, the god she would have been used to, that manmade statue her people tried to please by offering sacrifices, even their own children. But this God she came to know through Naomi (the Lord) was different. Instead of making demands, he made promises. As great as her problems of a dead spouse, a lack of income, no place to live, and all the rest, she knew she had a greater problem that outweighed them all. She knew, deep down, just like we all do, she knew that she had failed God. Sin, guilt, shame, the things Chemosh could never touch, the true God had solved.
This was the God that promised an offspring of the woman who would crush Satan’s head and destroy the power guilt has over all people. Little did Ruth (King David’s great-grandma and so, an ancestor of Jesus) know she was one of the women God would use to keep that promise of the peace-bringer Naomi had told Ruth about. This God, instead of demanding blood be shed by the one offering a prayer if they want a favorable answer like Chemosh demanded, this Lord God promised his Son’s blood to cover our sins and bring our requests to his ear, who would be "pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities."
That’s the God Ruth now knew and so she tossed all the logical pros and cons out the window and followed Naomi on what any logical person would have guaranteed you to be a trail of tears. Faith led this journey, and Ruth makes her biggest life decision not based on what made more sense to her, but where her relationship with the true God would be strengthened, and where she had an opportunity to show love.
So now, it is your turn to decide, you who know the love of God. Will you do what is best for your bottom line, or more comfortable for you? Will you relegate your service to when you have some extra time and energy or your offerings to only when you happen to have some extra sitting around? No, you’ve seen the love of God. And that love causes you to make decisions like Ruth did. Filled with God’s love that gave his Son for you, you will let faith decide and you will decide to love.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.