Devotional: Let’s take a look at the Book of Ruth

Published 11:01 pm Thursday, January 4, 2024

Happy New Year! In the spirit of newness, I want to take a theme from my last devotional and make it new. Before, the idea was how we would recognize our familiness in the great hereafter – in heaven. This writing is more immediate. How do we recognize family here and now? 

This may seem obvious to some. Your family is those who are related to you. Blood is thicker than water, etc. This answer is not satisfying for me, so the question persists. I have been forced to reconsider what it means to be family, and I have determined that family is a choice. If “love” is a better verb than noun, “family” functions better as something that is worked out rather than is assumed. 

The Book of Ruth is such a good and rich book in many ways, but it is perhaps most notable for its message on family. After tragedy, Naomi is left without husband or son but with her two (now widowed) daughters-in-law. Any prospect for a future is gone, so she instructs them to both leave and go back to their home families. That would make sense if family is the people into whom you were born, but Ruth rejects this sliver of hope with a pronouncement unlike anything else in Scripture: 

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“Do not press me to leave you, 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.
Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus to me, and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!” (Book of Ruth 1:15-17)

In what sounds like a marriage, Ruth binds herself to her mother-in-law. They will have one life, one future, one faith, one hope, and one family. Every atom of rationality was screaming for her to depart as quickly as possible once the door was opened. Ruth owed Naomi nothing at that point, but Ruth decided to double down on that relationship. They began as family through marriage, but here they create true family. If you are not familiar with this story, because of this choice, Ruth ends up being in the family of King David and a descendant of Jesus, himself. See Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (see 1:5). 

From the very first marriage in the Bible to Jesus naming those who follow him as his family to God’s choice to make us all children, the way precious family seems to be created is by the gift of choice. Being born into a family invites that choice and probably urges that choice, but it is only when we choose to honor another as family that we live out this precious love. Appreciate those whom you choose as family, whatever their relation. Let us all keep our family as a reflection of God’s love in Christ, and let us see this new year as a new chapter for our shared life in God’s community. Grace and Peace.

Rev. Dr. Peter Smith is the pastor for Farmville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at pastorfpc@centurylink.net.