A reading and a reflection
Ruth 4: 13 – 21
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighbourhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.
You are not your label.
I’m going to say that several times because, if you’re anything like me, it takes hearing something a few times before it sinks in.
You are not your label.
Whether that’s a label that you have given yourself (‘not good at maths’), a label that your school gave you (‘always in detention’), or your family or friends (‘never remembers his wallet’), whether it’s a positive label (‘always up for a laugh’) or one you’d rather forget (‘the one who always gets drunk’), you are not your label.
Today, we finish the story of Ruth. It’s a classic Hollywood romance: plucky heroine Ruth wins the heart of older, but still ruggedly handsome, Boaz (probably played by Harrison Ford). But – plot twist – a closer relative has a prior claim! Will he separate our lovelorn heroes?
Boaz hatches a plan, and the other claimant backs down. Boaz and Ruth marry, the film fades into the sunset and we all wipe our eyes. Lovely.
So what? Pretty story, but what does that have to do with me? And what’s with the list of names at the end?
Think back to the start of the story. Naomi travelled from Bethlehem to Moab. Moab was the next-door country to Israel and, as often with neighbours, they had a complex history. Deuteronomy 23 says that “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt.”
Ruth was a Moabite.
But Ruth was not her label.
Ruth became the great-grandmother of David: Israel’s greatest king, a man ‘after God’s own heart’ and the ancestor of Jesus. Sure, she was a Moabite, but she loved God and found her place in his family.
The only label that matters is this one: Loved by God.
That is your label.
God beyond limits,
Thank you that you see the ‘me’
behind the labels I wear.
Thank you that in your family
I can move beyond what others think of me,
and what I think of me.
The only label that matters is what you think of me
and I know that you love me.