November 1, 2015
Ruth 1: 1-18
Jesus said to the scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” What did Jesus mean when he said this? The scribe has recognized what Jesus has spent his whole ministry trying to help people understand. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus wants everyone to come into the kingdom of God and has been showing us the way throughout history. The scribe was grasping the message and was close to entering the kingdom. What does the scribe know that brings him close to the kingdom?
The scribe is beginning to understand what is most important. Burnt offerings and sacrifice are not as important as loving God. There is nothing more important than loving God. Loving God, self and others brings us into the kingdom of God.
Which one of theses things are you struggling with today? Do you love God? Do you love yourself? Do you love others? One challenge and even barrier to loving God and others manifests when we have an unhealthy attitude toward ourselves. Do you love yourself in a way that keeps you open to God and others or are you in a place of being closed to God and others? We have choices about how we respond to the challenges of living. Fear is a great obstacle to healthy love.
Naomi was afraid that her daughter-in-laws would become penniless and shunned if they went with her back to her original home in Bethlehem. People from Moab were considered foreign and enemies by people in Bethlehem. But we see in this story that Ruth wasn’t afraid of being a foreigner or an enemy. She was faithful to Naomi and believed love was the most important thing.
Jesus spent his whole ministry teaching the message of love in the face of structures and people that feared or tried to block this kind of love. The law said, “do not heal on the Sabbath” but Jesus healed anyway. The people said, “do not eat with a tax collector” but Jesus didn't listen. The disciples said, “keep the children away” but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” The people tried to convince the blind man to stay away from Jesus but Jesus asked the blind man, “What do you want?” Finally, the scribe begins to understand what Jesus has been teaching.
God is like Ruth who offers love unconditionally and who calls us to love ourselves the way God loves us so that we do not have to fear the dysfunctional structures, attitudes and people that try to keep us closed. The scribe says to Jesus “God is the One and besides God there is no Other…to love God with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Isn't this also much more important than allowing ourselves to live in fear?
I have seen people let fear of abandonment, fear of rejection and fear of the unknown block their ability to accept love. Naomi did not want to accept Ruth’s love and told her three times to leave. Maybe the key to loving ourselves has to do with not letting fear block us from accepting the love of God and the healthy love of others.
We must be able to distinguish between healthy love from others and unhealthy love. Healthy love allows us to be ourselves and encourages us to grow. Unhealthy love tries to manipulate us using shame and guilt. Jesus shows us the healthy love that is unencumbered by dysfunctional structures and fear.
Do you love yourself in a way that opens you to God and others or closes you to God and others? Is fear or anything else blocking your ability to give and/or receive love? No matter where we are today with this, God’s love never ends, never gets turned off or is never closed. Jesus welcomes the scribe’s understanding of the great commandments to love and tells him this understanding brings him near to the kingdom.
How are you doing today with the great commandments to love? Do you love God? Do you love yourself? Do you love others? Hopefully you are like the scribe and understand that this is what is most important so that Jesus can say to you what he said to the scribe “you are not far from the kingdom of God.”