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All of us need somewhere to call home

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Recently, my parents traveled from their home in Michigan to a reunion of my mom’s extended family in Avon, South Dakota, where my grandfather grew up. Nearly 90 people from across the country gathered in this town with a population of less than 600. The group ate meals together, took a tour of the local bank which was founded by our ancestors, and formed a choir which sang during worship in the local church that Sunday. One of my mom’s second cousins spoke at the service, and he asked the congregation, “Why would people come from all across the country to a tiny town in South Dakota to spend a weekend with people they don’t know?” His answer was this: “because all of us need somewhere to call home.” One of the things I’ve wondered about Ruth is why she would choose to leave her home in Moab and move to a foreign country with a widow who couldn't ensure her safety or security. Why would she give up the comfort of the only home she’s ever known and follow Naomi into an uncertain future? What really inspired her hesed (loving-kindness, faithfulness, or loyalty beyond what is expected) toward Naomi? I’ve wondered if Ruth’s mother’s home in Moab wasn’t actually a safe place for her. Perhaps going with Naomi seemed like a better option. Or maybe Ruth just had a spirit of adventure and wanted to see new places. Maybe she just felt sorry for Naomi, or was worried that an older woman traveling alone would be an easy target for bad actors. Of course, we can’t know for certain why Ruth chose to go with Naomi. But the New Interpreter’s Commentary might offer us a helpful clue about her motivations. It notes that after Naomi urged Ruth to stay in a Moab for a third time, Ruth responded with future tense verbs (see Ruth 1:15-17). She said “I will go,” “I will lodge,” “I will die,” and “I will be buried.” In those phrases, she was stating her intentions for the future. But the original Hebrew doesn’t contain any verbs in what is translated as “your people will be my people,” and “your God will be my God.” So a more accurate translation of those phrases would actually be, “your people, my people; you're God, my God.” According to the commentary, this simple placement of nouns in Hebrew “most frequently represents a statement of present rather than future reality.” In other words, Ruth was already loyal to Naomi’s people. She was already loyal to Naomi’s God. Ruth would go with Naomi and live with her because she had already made a commitment. The commentary notes that there are overtones of indignation in Ruth’s response to Naomi. It’s as if Ruth is saying, “How dare you ask me to abandon my commitments! We already belong to one another. Your home is my home because I’ve already committed to your people and your God!” All of us need somewhere to call home. In the end, I think that Ruth could abandon her home in Moab because she had already made her home somewhere else. But her new home wasn’t a place. Her new home was with God. And that meant that wherever Ruth went, she was already home. The Book of Ruth ends with a genealogy: Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jessie was the father of King David. Because Ruth made her home with God, God was able to fulfill God’s purposes through her. In the same way, Jesus Christ invites all people to make their home with him. As Christians, we have responded to that invitation. We have committed to follow where Christ leads and love as Christ loves. Our physical homes may change–we may be called to move to a new city, or change jobs or faith communities, or even leave our families of origin to form new families. But no matter where we go, no matter where life takes us, we will always have somewhere to call home because our hearts will always be at home with Christ.

______ Footnotes

  1. “Ruth 1:15-18 Commentary,” New Interpreter’s Commentary (Abingdon, 2015), 274.

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