At Women, Wine & Jesus (Dallas) we’ve been walking through the Book of Ruth. So often the book has been depicted as Boaz (the man on white horse) riding up to save the damsel in distress – ugh, what a white wash reading of the book!
When Ruth said she was sticking with Naomi – the word used was “clung” (1:14) – it’s the same word we see in Genesis 2:24 (the “marriage” passage). It means to become kin with someone outside the blood family – to live and experience life together. Ruth, knowing full well her choice would cost her, clung to Naomi – no matter what. How does that look today amongst God’s people? Do we form “kinship” with those outside our blood families and if so, how does it look to “cling” to them?
I could go on and on about how we see these courageous women hesed each other – it’s everywhere in their life story. And then we see Ruth, this foreigner, pressing Boaz to go beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law. She demanded more of him. (He was a generous man but she pushed for going beyond what was acceptable. She asked, “How big are the corners of your field?”) And every time Ruth pressed Boaz -he rose to the occasion. Ah, we need more men like Boaz. Going beyond what is expected. Way beyond – at a cost to himself. What I love in this story is this strong man isn’t offended by Ruth’s strength. In fact her strength makes him want to be more. This is a story that makes us realize women don’t have to be less (or pretend to be less) in order for men to be more. Ah, we need more Ruth’s and more Boaz’s – the Blessed Alliance. (If you want to learn more about the Blessed Alliance join us in Austin May 1-3).
All of this hesed has really challenged me. I want to “down play” it – rationalize how it’s not really required of me or that I can do it in “lesser” ways…but there it is in Scripture. And Jesus hesed like no other. And I think it’s the kind of life he wants his people to live – so I’m struggling. How do I do that in kinship relationships (outside of blood family) and am I willing to risk asking those in power and positions of authority for more (going beyond the letter to the spirit of the law?) Am I willing to make myself vulnerable? How do I hesed in my every day life? Am I really that committed?
Sometimes I find myself face to face with what the Scripture is REALLY addressing and I find it’s way beyond – it’s radical love, it’s radical giving, it’s radical living – and I’m challenged with my wanting it to be “less” than that.
Listen to Carolyn Custis James description of hesed and scan over the Book of Ruth – then ponder how we are doing with hesed? In our families, work and faith communities?
Scholars tell us “hesed is a strong Hebrew word that sums up the ideal lifestyle for God’s people. It’s the way God intended for humans beings to live together from the beginning-the “Love-your-neighbor-as-yourself” brand of living, an active, selfless, sacrificial caring for one another that goes against the grain of our fallen natures and this broken world.
Two parties are involved-someone in desperate need and second person who possesses the power and the resources to make a difference.
Hesed is driven, not by duty or legal obligation, but by a bone-deep commitment-a loyal, selfless love that motivates a person to do voluntarily what no one has a right to expect or ask of them. They have the freedom to walk away without the slightest injury to their reputation Yet they willingly pour themselves out for the good of someone else. It’s actually the kind of love we find most fully expressed in Jesus.
Hesed is the gospel lived out.” (Gospel of Ruth, CCJ)
Lord make me a woman who lives the gospel out.