The Ethos of Community

Renewal takes a tribe, or in modern day terms, a community. Now this is another a loaded word! The first question that comes to mind when I hear the word community is, “What in the world do you mean when you say ‘community’?” Everyone has a different idea of what it is, and for every idea of what community is, there are hundreds of different ways that each idea could be lived out.

So I am not going to give my opinion of what community is supposed to look like; that task is impossible because of all the various contexts and cultures that exist. What I hope to do though, is to paint a mental ethos of community and lay a foundation of some of the earmarks of healthy communities.

Jean Vanier, a Catholic philosopher turned theologian, in 1964 founded a community called L’Arche in France. L’Arche communities are intentional places of living where those with intellectual disabilities are able to have a safe place to live and share life with others who have intellectual disabilities as well as those who do not.

A core ethos of L’Arche communities is for each community to display the “reality that persons with intellectual disabilities possess inherent qualities of welcome, wonderment, spirituality, and friendship.” They desire to explicitly display “the dignity of every human being by building inclusive communities of faith and friendship where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together.” (see http://www.larcheusa.org/)

So as to not reinvent the wheel, I want to use the inherent qualities of L’Arche values as a means to lay a foundation or a framework for healthy communities, which I believe is a vital element of church renewal.

Welcome: an instance or manner of greeting someone with pleasure and approval.

Greeting someone with love and warmth is an acquired gift, especially when we’re greeting someone who is radically different than we are, and possibly offensive in the way they live. Community takes a welcoming spirit, or maybe as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, a spirit of hospitality. I was a Young Life leader for over a decade, and I have been associated with Young Life at an intimate level since 1994.

Young Life leaders (at least in my area in Phoenix) are some of the best “welcomers” I know. The spirit that Young Life exudes to kids in jr. and sr. high is one that is opposite of our everyday culture. Mainstream culture (Christian and non-Christian) typically says, “You can belong to our group once you behave a certain way and believe what we believe.” Young Life flips that cultural script and says, “You belong with us regardless of your behavior and beliefs.” This is risky business, but I believe it’s the right kind of business to be about.

For community to work and be healthy, it must start with a welcoming spirit that says, “You belong here, even though there are big differences between us.” Belonging precedes behavior and belief. This world view is at the heart of community.

Wonderment: a state of awed admiration or respect.

In the Christian, Judaic, and Sufi Islam world views, all humans have inherent value and worth because of the belief that we are all created in God’s image, which was later coined in it’s Latin form as the “Imago Dei.” If this doctrine were to be properly understood and fully believed, self-righteousness, biases, judgements, and racism would eventually fade away, and we will begin celebrating the beauty of our differences, rather than fighting about them.

Being thrilled about the gifts we bring to one another and respecting and valuing the differences of ourselves and other people is an essential element of healthy community. It is easy for us to be in a state of judgement and criticalness of each other, but to begin to be awed and amazed at the uniqueness and diversity of humanity is a part of every thriving community.

Wonderment ought to follow welcoming, yet this is a virtue that is mostly only attained after the church is caught up into the heavenly dimensions of the eucharistic life, which is the regaining of the mystery and the divine nature of the Lord’s table, and learning to see all of life as a liturgy of worship to God.

Spirituality: matters concerning the human soul (heart, mind).

To respect and admire someone and not care about the deeper parts of their heart and mind (the soul), are to not fully love and respect someone. As much as we can talk about being a community of welcoming and wonderment, we must not neglect being a community who cares for souls. With that said, welcoming people and finding wonder in our diversity is not an invitation to turn a blind eye to unhealthy living and destructive behavior. Much abuse is birthed inside the middle of tight knit communities, as the desire of a euphoric community becomes more important than individual human dignity.

In caring for the spirituality of a person and a community, we will be able to explore the deep parts of our hearts and minds and be changed in the midst of a welcoming community of wonder. It is in this context where behaviors are not coerced to get in proper formation, but challenged to promote peace and welfare for the individual and the whole. Caring for someone’s healing (body and soul) begins to be a natural corrective part of healthy communities, which will be able to offer space to those who need it. This type of community will respect boundaries, honors bodies and souls, and have self-respect and sincerity towards others.

Healthy communities labor towards minds being renewed, which leads to destructive habits and thoughts being challenged in love, and proper accountability that seeks the welfare of individual bodies and souls, as well as the corporate body. This might be the hardest value to embody in community, but we must labor towards this end, as spiritual realities always affect material realities.

As one is continually drawn into the presence of God on earth, it is clear to see that there is a spirit at work in this world other than the Spirit of God. It is a dark spirit that seeks to destroy body and soul (individually and communally). It hates diversity and destroys all creativity in community. It is a perverted spirit that seeks to twist and distort love, and it only has the the power to usurp, not to build up. This must be recognized in the spirit realm and addressed in community as the spirituality of individuals and the community is shaped.

Friendship: a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people.

There are many forms of friendship that we could talk about, but at the most basic level, I take friendship to be a place where relationships are rooted, meaning, they do not run away after conflict and disappointments ensue. In our culture, where cars can take us far away from our neighborhoods and friendships, we have lost the sense of being rooted, and “sticking it out” with friends when trials come has not been a popular communal value among many believers.

In the local church context, it is easy with the advent of cars to find a new church community when friends and leaders stop giving us what we want, or stop serving our needs, seen only through the lens of what’s best for me. Friendship inside neighborhoods and communities seem to be difficult as well, since walking to stores and appointments isn’t part of our everyday culture. We get into our hollow metal shells and drive past neighbors daily, and most of our friends live a cars drive away.

A lack of rootedness in a particular place has made many friendships a shallow, social media type friendship that can cut you off if you offend, rather than a friendship that stays when things blow up. Friendship in healthy communities ought to include affection, sympathy, empathy, honesty, selflessness, mutual submission, compassion, confrontation, and the ability to royally “blow it” without losing the friendship. Friendships give, receive, and protect.

A lack of friendship may just kill community. When we love the idea of community more than we love people and desire true friendship, community will not thrive. Many seek community because of the good feeling they have in the beginning and the comforts than can be experienced. But for those who love the idea of community more than people, they will quickly run from community when the aura or people within the community stop offering what was desired. Love people more than your idea of community.

I believe church renewal depends on healthy expressions of communities in particular places and neighborhoods. I believe church renewal is dependent on new forms of community rising up being called “the church”. I believe church renewal will birth many forms of organic communities that embody the L’Arche values of community, that break bread together, regularly meet and gather and care for each other’s bodies and souls, and are a place of intimacy within the eucharistic life.

This is how fabrics of care can be created inside blighted hoods or disconnected suburbs, as neighbors form communities to band together to care for one another and for the needs of the under-served. Renewal happens holistically and organically, and until people know that there is a community to belong to, programs and organizations will not be able to have a sustainable impact.

I believe many Christ followers today are experiencing a “disorienting” call to step out of their current church expression and into something much more authentic and mysterious. And within this disorienting call, many of us struggle because we know of no other way to “do” or “be” church besides the modern, institutional approach. In addition, new believers are not embracing the formal way of “doing” church because in many ways it conflicts with their values, and they too are being called into something much more authentic and mysterious. I believe that new expressions of these types of ancient communities will lead the way in church renewal in the 21st century, as families, homes, businesses, and cities of those desiring to regain the life of the kingdom are transformed, and organic expressions of church communities become more of a norm.

I’m thankful for communities such as L’Arche, and leaders such as Jean Vanier, who have humbly and lovingly stepped out of the norm and allowed new forms of community to critique our old forms, and energize us to regain a new/old and prophetic way to live together.

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A Path Towards Urban Renewal: Community

Urban renewal takes community. Now that’s a loaded phrase! The first question that comes to mind when I hear that is, “What in the world do you mean when you say ‘community’?” Everyone has a different idea of what community is, and for every idea of what community is, there are hundreds of different ways that each idea could be lived out.

So I am not going to give my opinion of my ideas of what community is supposed to look like; that task is impossible because of all the various contexts and cultures that exist. What I hope to do though, is to paint a mental ethos of community and lay a foundation of some of the earmarks of healthy communities.

Jean Vanier, a Catholic philosopher turned theologian, in 1964 founded a community called L’Arche in France. L’Arche communities are intentional places of living where those with intellectual disabilities are able to have a safe place to live and share life with others who have intellectual disabilities as well as those who do not.

A core ethos of L’Arche communities is for each community to display the “reality that persons with intellectual disabilities possess inherent qualities of welcome, wonderment, spirituality, and friendship.” They desire to explicitly display “the dignity of every human being by building inclusive communities of faith and friendship where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together.” (from the web: http://www.larcheusa.org/)

So as to not reinvent the wheel, I want to use the inherent qualities L’Arche values as a means to lay a foundation or a framework for healthy communities which is a vital element of urban renewal.

Welcome: an instance or manner of greeting someone with pleasure and approval.

Greeting someone with love and warmth is an acquired gift, especially when we’re greeting someone who is radically different than we are, and possibly offensive in the way they live. Community takes a welcoming spirit. I was a Young Life leader for 10 years and have been associated with Young Life at an intimate level since 1994.

Young Life leaders (in my area at least) are some of the best welcomers I know. The spirit that Young Life exudes to kids in jr. and sr. high is one that is opposite of our every day culture. Mainstream culture (Christian and non-Christian) typically says, “You can belong to our group once you behave a certain way and believe what we believe.” Young Life flips that cultural script and says, “You belong with us regardless of your behavior and beliefs.” This is risky business, but I believe it’s the right kind of business to be about.

For community to work and be healthy, it must start with a welcoming spirit that says, “You belong here, even though there are big difference between us.” Belonging precedes behavior and belief.

Wonderment: a state of awed admiration or respect.

In the Christian, Judaic, and Sufi Islam worldviews, all humans have inherent value and worth because of the belief that we are all created in God’s image, which was later coined in it’s Latin form as the “Imago Dei.” When this doctrine is properly understood and fully believed, self-righteousness, biases, judgements, and racism will eventually all fade away, and we will begin celebrating the beauty of our differences.

Being thrilled about the gifts we bring to one another and respecting and valuing the differences of ourselves and other people is an essential element of healthy community. It is easy for us to be in a state of judgement and criticalness of each other, but to begin to be awed and amazed at the uniqueness and diversity of humanity is a part of every thriving community. Wonderment ought to follow welcoming.

Spirituality: matters concerning the human soul (heart, mind).

To respect and admire someone and not care about the deeper parts of the heart and mind (the soul), are to not fully love and respect someone. As much as we can talk about being a community of welcoming and wonderment, we must not neglect being a community who cares for souls. With that said, welcoming people and finding wonder in our diversity is not an invitation to turn a blind eye to unhealthy living and destructive behavior.

It is in caring for the spirituality of a person and a community where the deep parts of our hearts and minds are changed in the midst of a welcoming community of wonder. It is in this context where behaviors are not coerced to get in proper formation, but challenged to promote peace and welfare for the individual and the whole. Caring for someone’s healing (body and soul) begins to be a natural corrective part of healthy communities, but this is also where many offenses come in to play.

Healthy communities labor towards minds being renewed, which leads to destructive habits and thoughts being challenged in love, and proper accountability that seeks the welfare of souls, individually and corporately. This might be the hardest value to embody in community, but we must labor towards this end, as spiritual realities always affects material realities. Indeed, God has made the body and soul a beautiful unity.

Friendship: a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people.

There are many forms of friendship that we could talk about, but at the most basic level, I take friendship to be a place where relationships are rooted, meaning, they do not run away after conflict and disappointments ensue, and they always will. In our culture, where cars can take us far away from our neighborhoods and friendships, we have lost the sense of being rooted and sticking it out with friends when trials comes.

In the local church context, it is easy with the advent of cars to find a new church community when friends and leaders stop giving us what we want, or stop serving our needs seen only through the lens of what’s best for me. Friendship inside neighborhoods seem to be difficult as well, since walking to stores and appointments isn’t part of our culture either. We get into our hollow metal shells and drive past neighbors daily, and most of our friends live a cars drive away.

A lack of rootedness in a particular place has made many friendships a shallow, social media type friendship that can cut you off if you offend me, rather than a friendship that stays when things blow up. Friendship in healthy communities ought to include affection, sympathy, empathy, honesty, selflessness, mutual submission, compassion, confrontation, and the ability to royally blow it without losing the friendship. Friendships both give and receive.

I believe urban renewal depends on healthy expressions of communities in particular places and neighborhoods. This is how fabrics of care can be created inside blighted hoods, as neighbors form communities to band together to care for one another and for the needs of the underserved. Renewal happens holistically, and until people know that there is a community to belong to, programs and organizations will not be able to have a sustainable impact in the urban core.

Ruth week 4: True Love. Complete Redemption

Read Ruth 4:1-22.

As we come to the end of our series on the book of Ruth, the main question we should ask ourselves is: “What is the lesson of this book? What one main thing does the author want us to take away from reading this story? It is after all one story that was originally meant to be read in it’s entirety, and it was not broken up into 4 chapters.

The Lesson of the Book of Ruth: Here’s what I would suggest as the main lesson: God plans for your eternal joy and  divine legacy, but the road there makes you believe He’s against you at times. The life of the godly is not the I-10 going from Cali to Louisiana, but instead, it’s an old forest road winding through the woods on the Rim. There are rock slides and steep drops off. There are dark mists and bears, and curves in the road that make you lose control and sometimes can radically alter your life. But all along this hazardous and twisted road that doesn’t let you see very far ahead, there are signs that say, “Scenic View Ahead”. And every now and then you get a long strip along the Rim that takes your breath away only to go back into the woods, to the twists and turns that are often times scary.

The book of Ruth is one of those signs for you to read. There is a “Scenic View Ahead”, but one day, because of God’s “hesed”, that “Scenic View” will be an eternal reality with Jesus. It has been written to you by the Lord, and I have preached to you, so that it may serve to be an encouragement and hope for you in your life, that all the despair and feelings of hopelessness are not dead-end streets. No, but instead, they all serve to make the eternal joy that awaits you greater than they ever would be. In all the sufferings and disappointments in your life as a believer, God is planning for your joy.

As we embark on the final chapter of this book, we see the faithfulness of Boaz to honor God’s process of the closest relative redeeming Naomi’s land and family. He loved Ruth, but he loved God more and wanted to honor His plan instead of make his own way to what he wanted. Does that sound familiar to any of us today? Have you wanted something so bad that you made it happen even though you knew that you were being rebellious and making your own way without God’s blessing?

Boaz models to us the way to true righteousness, submitting to and obeying God. Obedience is often overlooked in “grace” cultures, but we are quick to forget that it is grace that moves (kineo’s) one to obey. A lack of obedience is not a sign of one receiving grace, rather it’s a sign of misappropriated grace. Grace moves us to obey!

So now we pick up the story and good ole’ Boaz is taking care of business this morning. Most business owners after 10 years of famine would be lusting over their fields (profit and food) and could care less about a foreign Moabite woman who they would possibly have to marry and give up time, money, land, and not focus on their job. Not Boaz! Boaz loves Ruth and he wants to marry her. So there’s Boaz sitting at the gate waiting for “Punk With No Name”.

At the gate is where men wait to meet business partners and gather other men around to be witnesses as two business men make a deal. Boaz waits, and low and behold, it just so happens that “Punk With No Name” shows up, and Boaz calls him friend, which is Hebrew for “Punk”! “Sit down Punk, I’ve got something to settle with you!”

Punk is a loser because he’s legally and spiritually obligated, as the closest living male relative to Naomi and Ruth, to take care of them. Leviticus 25 speaks of this, “That he is to make sure they’re okay,” and at this point, he hasn’t done a thing for these women; they’re starving to death, he hasn’t even stop by to check on them. He probably lives a mile or two away. It’s a smaller town. This would be equivalent to you, as an adult male or female in our culture, who owns your home and has a job, and your aunt and cousin live a few miles away, and they’re starving to death, and you don’t even call. You don’t check in. You know their story. You know Eli blew it. You know they’re new to town and need help to get on their feet. And you know you are loaded. You don’t even go visit, There’s no “How are you doing? Do you need any food? Your husbands are dead. Can I pray for you?” Nothing.

This is a loser of a dude who has not paid any child support and is milking the system to make sure he never has to. He has neglected all of his responsibilities. He is a loser! And Boaz’ main job is to dump him essentially, so he can take care of Ruth. Ladies, you ever had a Boaz type dude go to your loser boyfriend and have him dump him for you. This is what’s going on. This is great!

So in v. 3 Boaz begins to tell him how Eli has died and that he is the one who is to buy the land from Naomi so she can live. “Will you do that?” Punk says, “Sure, I’ll buy it.” “Great!” Boaz says. “With the land you inherit a Moabite woman named Ruth, have babies, be their father, and redeem what Eli lost. You still want it?” Punk lives up to his name and begins to back pedal and says, “On second thought, I actually have all my money tied up right now and I’m not gonna be able to afford that land and the cost of a wife and kids.” “Thanks!” Boaz says, it’s been nice doing business with you. So they carry on with their traditional means of signing a contract and make this deal legal and right. And look what the elders of the town says at the end of the deal:

vv. 11-12: Like Rachel and Leah; like Perez who perpetuated the family name through Tamar shrewdly getting pregnant from Judah. Little do the elders and the people realize what God is doing here through Ruth and Boaz. We will get there in a minute.

So we’ve read that Boaz can now redeem Naomi and Ruth as he dumped No Name Punk and get the girl, but there is a looming dark cloud overhead. Ruth is barren. Or at least she seems to be. In Ruth 1:4 we were told that she had been married ten years to Mahlon and there were no children. So even now the suspense is not over. Life is one curve after another, and we never know what’s coming. But the point of the story is that the best is yet to come and we must not be so quick to say that God is not for us when our plans seem to be thwarted by His seemingly impersonal will. No matter where you are, if you love God, the best is yet to come.

But the cloud over the head of Ruth and Boaz only lasts for a little while, yet for them (her), it didn’t seem to be “just a little while!” (10 years and then losing her husband, following bitter Naomi, etc…). God, who is full of mercy, causes His grace to crash over their heads.

Read vv 13-22: “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.” This is a good day for Ruth: she has a man fight for her; dump a lousy boyfriend; marry her and pay for the wedding; go on a honeymoon and got pregnant. This is a good day for Ruth, and for Naomi. Husbands died, desperate hungry, no future hope; now these are 2 valiant women who are prominent in the town, have kids, and worship Yahweh. Redemption is sweet!

First of all, we need to realize that according to the OT Law, Boaz was not obligated to marry Ruth. The Law says that the brother of the sister-in-law was to marry her and bring her under his covering. Boaz is by no means under any lawful obligation to redeem Ruth. We must not miss this. Boaz is not making a legal transaction as a religious gesture of faithfulness to God. No! Boaz loves Ruth, therefore he redeems her. This is a love story. And Ruth is the object of Boaz’ love, and Boaz is a type of Christ in this story and you are a type of Ruth.

Secondly, did you notice how the focus in vv. 14-22 is not on Ruth or Boaz, but on Naomi, the son, and those who came after the son. Why? If we follow the story line of Ruth, we see it begin with Naomi’s loss and pain; and we see it end with Naomi’s gain and joy. This story began with death and it ends with birth. A son. But who is that son for? Look at verse 17 again: “And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.”

To Naomi, not Ruth! Why? The child is for Naomi because of the levirate law of kinsman redeemer, but it’s also to show that it was not true what Naomi said back in 1:21, that the Lord had brought her back empty from Moab. Oh, if we could just learn to wait and trust in God, then all of our complaints against Him would prove untrue, and our joy would be fuller, and He would be more glorified.

In the final genealogy, we learn where king David came from. The promise of a righteous King to rule Jerusalem is partially realized in King David, the great grandson of Ruth and Boaz. King David is the kingly type of Christ. As David ruled Jerusalem with power and military might, so Jesus, the anti-type of David, would rule the world one day with power because of His sacrifice on the cross and His divine power to conquer the death of death.

Ruth was written to help us see the signposts of the grace of God in our lives, and to help us trust his grace even when the clouds are so thick that we can’t see the road in front of us, let alone the signs that say “Scenic View Ahead”. But it was also written to unfold to us the great history of redemption that God has unfolded in Scriptures.

God, who promised in Genesis 3 to send us a redeemer, one to save us from ourselves, has caused His plan to continue as planned. In Genesis 12 we learn that through Abraham, all the nations of the world would be blessed. And we know from the redemptive history we learn in the OT, that Boaz is from the line of Abraham, and at that, the line of Judah, one of Abraham’s great grandson’s whom God said this savior would come in his family line, the line of Judah, building up to the coming of the great Savior, Messiah, Jesus the Christ. GO OVER THE GENEALOGY IN MATT. 1.

God is not a god of religion. He is a God of grace and mercy who includes in His family all who are willing to come to Him… ALL! Do not mistake religion with redemption. To help you not to do that, here is a list from Tim Keller that helps identify religion vs. redemption:

RELIGION says: I obey-therefore I’m accepted
REDEMPTION says: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION says: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity
REDEMPTION says: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION says: I obey God in order to get things from God
REDEMPTION says: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION says: When circumstances in life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life
REDEMPTION says: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION says: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs
REDEMPTION says: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION says: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment
REDEMPTION says: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION says: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure
REDEMPTION says: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION says: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other
REDEMPTION says: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION says: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God
REDEMPTION says: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

You tracking with me now?

And because of the relationship of the story of “Ruth with the New Testament, it suggests that Boaz foreshadows Christ, while Naomi and Ruth foreshadow the union of ethnic Israel and of Gentiles in the church. Naomi of Judah and Ruth of Moab typify the union of ethnic Israel and Gentiles respectively in the church, and Boaz typifies Christ.”

1. Boaz: A Type of Christ. Boaz did more than share: he sacrificed himself financially to give Naomi and Ruth land and an inheritance in perpetuity [permanently]. Jesus Christ, the greater antitype, sacrifices his blood to give his church a regenerated earth and eternal life… “Boaz” gave the dead immortality: by his sacrifice he bought back those who had verged into death and debt and secured a “Ruth,” his Gentile bride. “Boaz” brought his “bride” into final rest. As Boaz brought Naomi and her family rest (see Ruth 1:9; 3:1) so David brought Israel rest, and Christ gives the church rest.

2. Ruth: A Type of Redeemed Gentiles in the Church. “Ruth” becomes the people of God by commitment to “Boaz,” her Bridegroom. By public proclamation of her identity with him, she comes to have blood links with Abraham (Gal. 3:16, 29). Through her, “Boaz” gives life to a seed that will destroy the Serpent (Gen. 3:15: Ruth 4:18–22; 1 Chron. 2:5–15; Matt. 1:3–6; Luke 3:31–33; 1 Tim. 2:9–15).

3. Naomi: A Type of Ethnic Israel in the Church. “Naomi’s” fate and “Ruth’s” fate are inextricably linked to one another. “Naomi” comes before “Ruth” in being the people of God, and “Naomi” mediates “Ruth’s” entrance into the covenants God originally made with “Naomi.” “Ruth” is her daughter. They are equal heirs of the covenant relationship because “Boaz” redeems them from a land of death. The new and young “widow,” full of hope and promise, rejuvenates “Naomi,” the old and failed “widow,” who on her own was without hope. By her faith and covenant loyalty, “Ruth” transforms bitter and hopeless “Naomi” to the joy of salvation. “Naomi” in the end will again be called Pleasantness.

Overall, God, in His sovereignty ensures redemption. His words are sure. His promises we can count on. And this beautiful book shows us that God always keeps his promises. For those who love God and submit to Jesus, the best is yet to come. This is the unshakable truth about life; through faith in Christ, many are made righteous. As well, we see threads of redemption in the OT pointing to Christ Jesus, who is the whole creation’s redemption.

Again, my prayer is that you don’t read this and walk away with a religious overtone. Boaz was not bound by the Law to marry Ruth. He was not the one that was legally bound to redeem her or Naomi’s land. He redeemed her because he loved her. Jesus is not bound by a religious commitment to obey the law. No! He fulfilled the Law, therefore he could have done whatever He wanted to do. And He chose to redeem you. Marry you. Associate with you. Live in your pain and not overlook it. This is our redeemer.

Let’s Pray!

Ruth week 3: Risky Business

Larry Walters had always dreamed of flying, but was unable to become a pilot in the US Air Force because of his poor eyesight. Walters had first thought of using weather balloons to fly around the age 13, after seeing them hanging from the ceiling of a military surplus store. Twenty years later he decided to do so. His intention was to attach a few helium-filled weather balloons to his lawnchair, cut the anchor, and then float above the city at a height of about 30 feet for several hours. He planned to use a BB gun to burst balloons to float gently to the ground.

So this retired vietnam vet, Larry Walters, and his girlfriend, Carol Van Deusen, purchased 45 eight-foot weather balloons and obtained helium tanks from California Toy Time Balloons. They used a forged signature from his employer at FilmFair Studios, saying the balloons were for a television commercial. On July 2, 1982, Walters attached the balloons to his lawn chair, filled them with helium, put on a parachute, and strapped himself into the chair in the backyard of a home at in San Pedro. He named his ride “Inspiration”. He took a BB gun, a CB radio, sandwiches, cold beer, and a camera. When his friends prematurely cut the second cord that tied his lawn chair to his Jeep, he streaked out into the sky as if he was shot from a canon where he leveled off at a nice cruising altitude of 16,000 feet. At first, he did not dare shoot any balloons, fearing that he might unbalance the load and cause himself to spill out. For several hours he drifted, cold and frightened. He slowly drifted over the primary approach corridor for LAX airport. A TWA pilot first spotted Larry. The pilot radioed to the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair… with a gun! Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating at 16,000 feet above the airport. LAX emergency procedures went into full alert. Larry finally shot enough balloons to lower himself down safely into some power lines in a nearby neighborhood.

He was immediately arrested upon landing ; when asked by a reporter why he had done it, Walters replied, “A man can’t just sit around.” After his flight, he was in brief demand as a motivational speaker and he quit his job as a truck driver. He was featured in a Timex print ad in the early ’90s.

There’s not much that we wouldn’t do for a good thrill or to gain some sort of significance. After all, “a man can’t just sit around.” We need life to be exciting, thrilling; we want to feel significant, wanted, accepted. This morning, we encounter a really crazy story in Scripture that seems to be a thrilling, nerve racking experience, with some sort of pursuit of significance in a very risky way. The unfortunate thing is in our day and age, this chapter often gives us freedom to find thrills and significance from relationships, and we miss the big picture of the message of Ruth 3. Ruth 3 gives us a glimpse of 2 hope-filled women who are trusting God for significance and put themselves out there in a way that could bring about more pain, more rejection, and more hopelessness.

THE PLAN
vv. 1-5: Naomi – She has a plan and she is not going to waste a stroke. We see Naomi in this story move from being an oppressed victim, to an awakened, hope-filled orchestrator of righteousness. As long as Naomi remained a victim, she would remain motionless with no strategy or never put to use what God has given her to work with. She doesn’t stay in her junk, but she chooses to see where God is working and work along side Him. Naomi’s plan is clear: to win for Ruth a godly husband and a secure future, and preserve the family line.

But we have to admit that Naomi’s plan is crazy. Naomi tells Ruth to wash up and anoint herself. In modern terms, she says, “Ruth, go take a shower, shave your legs and armpits, pluck your eyebrows, put on some nice perfume and lotion that makes your body shine, get all dressed up and then go to Boaz’s office, follow him home, and after he goes to bed, sneak in to his house, lay down at the foot of his bed and cover yourself up with his blanket.” That’s racy! That plan would sell box office tickets in our day, but none of us (in our right mind) would encourage our daughters to do this).

Everybody, including Ruth, must think she’s crazy! Not to mention what people would be thinking: “And just where do you suppose that will lead, huh!?” To which Naomi gives her hope-filled answer in the last part of verse 4: “…he will tell you what to do.”

Okay, this is what we do know: We do know that Naomi’s plan is for Boaz to marry Ruth, but why not just go talk to him the next day? Why plan something that could possibly blow up in a sinful way? What did she mean by “lie at his feet?” Does that mean sleep with him or just lie there and freak him out when he wakes up in the morning? We have to agree, that this is not prescriptive counsel for us today.

We don’t know exactly what Naomi’s strategy is and the author is okay not tying that up for us, but we do know that Naomi seemingly wasn’t intending for Ruth to get lucky that night with Boaz as many would think.

THE PROPOSAL
vv. 6-9: Ruth – She says, “Alright old bitter mom-in-law, I’m not sure of your plan, but I like that you’re livening up a little bit.” Ruth apparently goes right along with her plan and is placing her trust in Naomi (hope must be really contagious!). But we learn that Ruth doesn’t do all that Naomi tells her to do.

As Boaz wakes at midnight and is startled to find a woman at his feet, he asks, “Who are you?” Good question! I can just imagine what’s going through Boaz’ head at this point, so this question is a good start.

Ruth says, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” (v. 9) She was, in effect saying, “You are the one who can redeem our family and I would like to be the one to whom you pledge your faithfulness to in marriage.” In modern day language, “I’m not here for sex, but I am here to ask you to seal the deal and marry me, share your inheritance and give me a child for the clan of Elimelech.” Great proposal huh? Any normal man would run, but we soon find out that Boaz is anything but normal.

This is where Ruth doesn’t adhere to her mother-in-law’s instructions. Instead of leaving the situation dangerously open to misunderstanding, as a godly woman, Ruth wanted to make her intentions clear right away. Her goal was to be redeemed and get married, not to have a seductive night of passion to manipulate Boaz to redeem her and Naomi.

Ruth was not intending to give Boaz an invitation to have sex (They were both God-fearing and knew that pre-marital sex was forbidden by God; OT and NT Scripture forbids it), rather we see the depth of Ruth from this comment, “Spread your wings over your servant.” The same word that Boaz said to Ruth in 2:12 (referring to finding refuge under God’s “wings”).

Ruth tells Boaz that he is God’s agent to reward Ruth, not knowing that this was Boaz’ intentions in the first place. Ruth says, “You are the wings that God desires to use to redeem me and bring me to a safe place. Would you be that man?” I think Boaz had every intention of being this man, but didn’t want to presume upon the young beautiful Ruth. He respected her and wanted her to desire to be redeemed by him.

THE PROBLEM
vv. 10-12: Boaz – Now it’s time to see Boaz’ plan unfold. And out of the gates, he remarkably comes up with beautiful, mature words for it being midnight, and him being startled and presumably buzzed:

“10 May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter (this is how we know that Boaz got the message loud and clear from Ruth; he intends on treating her as an Israelite; purity). You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.

Ok, this had to have been a bitter blow to Ruth. At this point she was probably feeling that things had been going well for her, but the DTR talk went bad. I can imagine Ruth wondering to herself whether she is going to have to repeat this midnight extravaganza with another man or not. Ruth launched off the ground in her lawn chair and is now uncertain about how to get down, and is likely cold and frightened.

THE PROMISE
But Boaz, the man, he will take care of it for her. Listen to what Boaz says:
v. 13: Remain tonight [sweetie], and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. [You can take that to the bank. So for now,] Lie down until the morning.”

The stars are out in all their beauty, the mood is right, they are alone, she is all dressed up, he is relaxed, it’s midnight; and he says this? What a man! What a woman! For the sake of righteousness he doesn’t touch her and he even is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that there isn’t a closer redeemer to redeem her. What a dude Boaz is!

Boaz tells Ruth to stay until dawn and secretly leave not because he had ill intention, but so that her mission wouldn’t be misinterpreted by witnesses. Oh that may we have more Ruth and Boaz’s! Oh that for the sake of righteousness we would turn from what feels right and good! Oh that we would choose what is right even when we feel that we deserve it! Oh that we would reject the tone of our culture that says “If it feels good, then do it!” There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

Ruth and Boaz chose what is right according to God’s good plan and the end was the protection of the line of Jesus, our savior! Let the morning dawn on your purity. Don’t be like the world. Be like Boaz. Be like Ruth. Profoundly in love. Subdued and discerning in communication. Powerful in self-control. Committed to righteousness.

THE PROVISION
vv. 14-18: 14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”

Boaz sends Ruth home with six measures of barley (80 lbs. worth; Ruth is no weak woman) as he has shown he is always committed to taking care of Ruth and Naomi and Naomi reassures Ruth that Boaz will not rest until he has followed through concerning her request. Game is on and this provision is just a glimpse of the kind of provision Boaz is going to offer Ruth. This is also a glimpse of the kind of provision (salvation) God ddesires to work on our behalf. God’s salvation is holisitc (body and soul).

As I read over this story in chapter 3, two words kept coming to my mind: thrill and significance. We are often moved by one or the other. Or maybe we are moved to do something thrilling in order to find significance, much like Larry the lawn chair pilot. This chapter is definitely thrilling and full of blood pumping action, and Ruth and Naomi are surely looking to find significance, and for a moment it seemed that Naomi was looking outside of God’s will for this kind of significance. But we see Ruth turn the corner and fall back on holiness and trust in God’s provision. Her motive to lay at Boaz’ feet was not a self-centered desire for thrill & significance. Rather, it was a God-centered thrill & significance that led her to do this seeming foolish, reputation ending act.

The part of the story I didn’t read about Larry the lawn chair pilot was that later in his life, he did volunteer work for the US Forest Service, then later broke up with his girlfriend and flight crew member of 15 years and could only find work sporadically as a security guard. Finally, 11 years after his “dream flight”, Larry committed suicide at the age of 44. The thrill and significance he sought never lasted, and actually left him more empty and lonely.

Thrill and significance: these two cravings are the very things that God uses to draw us to Himself, but they are also used by the enemy to keep us from being faithful to God in the way that Ruth and Boaz were in this story.

One quote regarding teen pregnancy says this: “Teenagers are far more likely to have babies when their lives begin to seem pointless and when the doors to the future seem closed.” There is a very close connection between saying “life has no point” and saying “life has no edge”.

Thrill & significance is what we all long for, but when we make thrill & significance our chief goal, we lose out. “I just want to have fun.” “I just want to be accepted (be significant).” “There’s noting I wouldn’t do to get (blank).” Thrill & significance pursued as a means to your happiness is empty and devastating.

If we put these two deep cravings together, I think what we’re saying is this: “I want my life to have meaning that is exciting to me and others. I want my life to be admirable. I want life to be a thrill; I want more joy in my life. I want to live for something that I would give my whole life for. I want to now that I’m gonna be somebody”

When we define ourselves by what we do, then when we don’t do (or fail to get) that thing that defines us, we cease to be significant (there is no thrill in life). Now oddly enough, the 2 things that keep us from being faithful to God are the very things that are satisfied when we are faithful to God.

Some of us would ask, “How in the world could Ruth and Boaz be this faithful, or generous?” They weren’t looking for cheap thrills and false significance. They were looking to be faithful to God. Their pursuit to be faithful to God gave them the very things they (and every human) longed for: thrill & significance. The other thing we find in Scripture is that you weren’t meant to try and be Boaz. The picture of Boaz is a picture of redemption that God works out on our behalf as we turn to Him for redemption. We can’t be the Boaz…we are Ruth, we are needy, we need to be redeemed and are relying on His power to save us. This is a glimpse into the gospel.

Can you identify times in your life where you have run to cheap thrills and false significance? Can you identify the affects the let down of those thrills have had on your life? Did those thrills make you feel significant? If so, how long did that feeling last?  What might you be overlooking today that God has already provided for you to receive the thrills and significance in Him? Or what has God called you to do, but you have not acted on it?

You are free to obey, and your obedience to God is the beginning of the thrill & significance you were meant to find in Him and His plans for you. You are not bound to the law. If you’ve made the wrong decision in the past, you will be ok! You will not be zapped dead by God. He will not forsake His promise to you. He has already redeemed you through Christ, if indeed you receive Jesus as your King. He will continue to redeem you, and give you the faith to obey and then you will walk in the thrill of being with God and receive your significance from you God says you are.

There is another One who forsook cheap thrills and false significance; He was deeply committed to God’s will; He trusted in God’s timing so much so that He obediently was led to the cross because of the hope set before Him, and the joy that would come to many. He forsook cheap thrills and false significance so that you could have eternal thrills and divine significance. This Jesus the Christ, the greater Ruth and Boaz.

Jesus is the One who set all things right.

Jesus’ righteousness makes many righteous.

Jesus’ plan gives us purpose, and thrill, and significance.

Jesus is the redeemer we need to turn to.

Let’s Pray!