By: Sarah Norman
Kindness is a difficult concept for our world to understand. In Galatians chapter 5, we're told kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, meaning we can only truly access real, genuine, self-sacrificial kindness when we have the Spirit working in us, helping us to do so.
One of the major themes in the book of Ruth is God's kindness to those who do not deserve it. Ruth 2:20 says, “Blessed be he by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” God looked on Ruth and Naomi with kindness that they had probably rarely felt. They had just moved from a country who worshiped a god who was not kind, Chemosh. Chemosh's name meant destroyer. They feared this god, not in the reverent way we fear the LORD, but in a fearful way. They worshiped Chemosh by sacrificing humans to him in hopes to appease his anger. God's kindness to Ruth was greatly contrasted by the fear felt toward the god of her people.
We see God's kindness towards Ruth all throughout this book, but especially in chapter 2. When Ruth set out to find food for herself and Naomi, she happened to find Boaz's field to glean from. God set up a system in Leviticus 19 called gleaning. This would not have been something Ruth was aware of, and it was rarely enforced by the field owners, but Boaz was different. Gleaning allowed for sojourners, widows and the fatherless to gather food from the edges of the field, and even asked that if grain was dropped, to not pick it up so those who needed it could gather it. Boaz made sure Ruth, both a sojourner and a widow, could glean from his field. He made sure she would have more than enough for herself and Naomi to eat. God's kindness was given to Ruth through Boaz.
God also set up a system in Leviticus called the Kinsman Redeemer. Women had no rights in this time in history. They were treated like commodities, traded like property. God set up laws for the Jewish people to make sure women were treated with dignity and were taken care of if something happened to the men in their family. If a woman was left widowed, her husband's brother, or male relative, was suppose to marry her, protect her, and ensure she was not left alone. The field Ruth happened to walk into, the man who happened to own that particular field, was a kinsman redeemer in her family. He was a distant relative of Elimilech's, Ruth's father-in-law. This field and this man were God's kindness to Ruth.
I'm sure being a widow in a strange land was scary. Walking around looking for food and a way to take care of herself and her mother-in-law was probably intimidating. Ruth was an outsider of the worst kind, from Moab. She was vulnerable as a single woman. The things that take place in this story were not coincidence. God had a plan. I'm sure Ruth was terrified that first day she went to the fields looking for food. She had no idea if this God she just met would take care of her. But God saw her. God looked at her vulnerable state and loved her. He protected her. He made a way for her. He redeemed not only her but her people through the line that would come from her.
Jesus came from Ruth, generations later. Jesus showed the ultimate kindness. He, a perfect sinless man, laid down his life and died for us. Just as Israel deserved destruction for the sins committed in the time of the Judges, we deserve destruction for our sins. Just as God showed Israel kindness by ending their famine, just as God showed the Moabite people kindness through His love of Ruth, Jesus showed us kindness most undeserved with his sacrifice on the cross. He took our place. He took my place. He died for my sins. I did not deserve that kindness, but he freely gave it. Justin said in his message this week that “kindness doesn't base its dose on what the world requires, kindness delivers the best because of what love requires”. There is no limit to God's kindness, it's based off God's love for me and his love is endless. Kindness and love like that are difficult for our finite, human minds to understand because it's not something we see often this side of Heaven. But for those of us who believe in God, trust in God and have a relationship with God, we have access to the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. That same Holy Spirit gives us power to live out God's love, kindness, gentleness, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, goodness and self-control.
This is not something we'll do perfectly. In fact, I failed tremendously at this just this past week. Rather than speaking in love and kindness and patience, I spoke in anger and hurt someone. We read Romans 12 a few weeks ago and God has been reminding me today of one key part. Verse 10 says “Love one another with mutual affection, outdo one another in showing honor, (emphasis added). God did this for Ruth through Boaz. He didn't have to show her kindness. The system set up in Leviticus for gleaning and a kinsman redeemer were not enforced, but he showed her kindness, he showed her honor. That is what we are to do for one another. When we speak, when we act, we are to do so in love, in kindness. Our goal should be to outdo one another in kindness, not to outdo one another in anger. Thankfully when we fail, Jesus steps in. His kindness, his love, his gentleness knows no end. Because of what Jesus did for us, there is nothing beyond redemption.
Ruth's story shows us redemption is possible. When we fail, when we sin, we go to God, we ask forgiveness and he freely gives it to us. When we've hurt another person, we should also go to them. When we do these things, we learn we don't have to live in our sin, we don't have to dwell in our failures, but rather God is there to pick up the pieces, to show His perfect love and kindness. Ruth's story shows us no one is beyond redemption.