Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Your God, My God

I'm teaching on Ruth for the next couple of weeks. (Don't worry. Just a substitute teacher. They normally have a real one.) I was looking at the beginning of the story. A Jewish family moved into Moab because of a famine. Their sons married. Then the father died and the sons died and Naomi was left with two daughters-in-law. She sent them away, but Ruth refused to go.
"Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and 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 I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me."
(Ruth 1:16-17)
I got to thinking about that. Ruth was surely not the first "convert". There were certainly many "sojourners", "foreigners within the gates", people who, though they couldn't join the bloodline of God's chosen people could, at the very least, join their faith. What the New Testament referred to as "God-fearers". So Ruth joined this crowd. "Your God, my God."

I got to thinking about those God-fearers. Do you suppose it was easy for them in Israel? I mean, if you read about Israel in the Old Testament, theirs was a history of idolatry, spiritual adultery, chastisement and exile. Elijah at one point thought he was the last believer and God had to tell him, "I have kept 7,000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." (1 Kings 19:18; Rom 11:4) So the pickin's could get pretty slim for fellow believers among God's chosen people. How did those God-fearers do?

Then I got to wondering. What about now? What about in churches with Jesus's name attached? What about among self-professed believers today? How hard is it today for people who come into "the group" because they long for a closer relationship with Christ and look for it among fellow believers? Is that difficult at times? Is it as hard for them as it was for Elijah? I suspect that might be the case.

We represent Christ in the world. We ought to do it carefully and accurately. Starting with love.

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