Ruth and Naiomi by Hilary Sylvester

Love Beyond the Law: Lenten Reflection (10)

Scripture for Today: Ruth

At the time of Ruth and Naomi, laws demanded that husbands and sons guarantee the security of their wives and daughters. Moreover, if your husband died there was a clear line of succession in place that intended to ensure someone would “acquire” and provide for the widow. In such a system, the way to secure well-being as a woman was to get married and bear children.

It is sometimes argued that this system favored women, ensuring that they had a way to be taken care of despite their inability to own land or earn equal wages. However, there are blatant cracks in the system. If you couldn’t find a husband, or, as is the case of Naomi, your husband and sons died, you were left without care. The law’s capacity to ensure love was limited.

This is what makes the story of Ruth so powerful. Ruth, rather than following the law’s path to security by finding a second husband, remains loyal to her mother-in-law Naomi: “Where you go , I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God (1:15).” In binding herself to Naomi, Ruth makes it almost impossible to find another husband, as he would be inheriting responsibility for two women (4:6).

However, rather than close off her options, Ruth’s courageous ability to trust in the abundance of God did the opposite, opening possibilities for her. Ruth inspires generosity in Boaz, who welcomes her into his fields, ensures her protection, and eventually marries Ruth. This almost reckless generosity and commitment to others mirrors the love that God bestows on us. This love stretches us past the boundaries of merit and reaches those our society has deemed unloveable. And, although it is challenging, as people of God we are called to emulate such love by extending ourselves beyond what we “ought” to do or what makes logical sense, loving beyond the limits of the law.

Prayer: Expand my capacity to love.

Reflection: Who, in my life, have I deemed unloveable or undeserving of love? What is one way I could extend love to that person(s)?

Art: “Ruth and Naomi” by Hilary Sylvester

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