In my last post I addressed the fact that so many of us are being hurt by each other. I mentioned that there are many people who are sitting on the edge of abandoning the church they’ve been trying so desperately to fit into. Their hope is about to be extinguished. If you’re one of those people read on my sisters. If you’re not one of those people, then especially read on to see how we can join together to take just of those bricks in our guarded brick wall we keep around us. Brick by brick remember? We’ll get there.
I have been reading through the book of Ruth. Actually, it’s one of my most favourite books, and I like to read through it often. I love the relationships we see in that part of the bible. In particular, I love Naomi. I love her heart.
Of all the lines in the book of Ruth, there is one verse that stands out to me, and it’s spoken by my girl Naomi. Let me give you the backstory in case you’re not familiar with this book. Naomi’s husband decides they need to pack up their two sons and move cities during a time of famine in their homeland. They set up camp in Moab (a city full of pagan beliefs and practices). While there Naomi’s husband dies. But, all is not lost for Naomi as her two sons marry local Moabite women. Things look good again, but then, ten years later, both her sons die. It’s tragic! Now Naomi is a widow with two other widows and no one to care for them. She decides to head back to her homeland with a heavy heart. At the crossroads, with her daughter-in-laws in tote, she tries to tell them to go back home to remarry and thus they will be taken care of once more. One goes back, but not Ruth. She pleads with Naomi to stay. Naomi responds with this:
“See,’ Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” (Ruth 1:15 NLT)
Wait. What? Go back to her gods? I get that her heart was heavy and she was upset, I would be too, but it strikes me that she was telling Ruth to go back to a place where her eternity was at stake. She couldn’t have been so heartbroken that she was overlooking the salvation of a young woman! As I mulled it over, I realized Naomi had a “right here, right now” mentality. She also had Ruth’s best interests in mind. Naomi understand there wasn’t much left for an old widow, and wanted more for Ruth. She was less concerned about her eternity, and more concerned about how Ruth would have food and shelter right now.
I think about how we talk to each other in and out of the church. Sometimes it almost feels as if we are so concerned with each others eternity that we have forgotten what we need right now. Where we end up eternally is important, it’s where we will spend eternity!! That’s a really REALLY long time to be somewhere! But, it’s really hard to get excited for something that seems so far away when we have heart needs that aren’t being met right now.
I think of how it must be for a person just walking into church. They have come because they are looking for more, they are looking for a glimmer of hope in their lives. Perhaps there’s something going on in their life that’s too big to handle, so they come looking for help, and answers, and someone who will listen. Instead, they get bombarded with what almost seems like sales pitches on why they need Jesus. Yes, I’m going there. Something about how we talk to non-believers just doesn’t sit right to me, especially after reading this example from Ruth. People walk through the front doors, and we start telling them how to say “the sinners prayer” before they even understand the nature of the God who they will spend forever with. We tell them how to be saved, and we plead with them to change the outcome of their eternity without ever tending to their right now needs. That very need that brought them to the doorsteps.
But Naomi, oh how I love her! She didn’t look at Ruth and tell her about her need for God. She didn’t whip out a bible tract with funky looking drawings and FAQs on faith. And yet…AND YET…look at Ruth’s response in verse 16:
But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go, I will live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
Because Naomi was taking care of a right now need, Ruth’s heart was softened and she drew closer to Naomi, accepting all things about this wise women’s life including her faith. The rest of the book is littered with people taking care of their right now needs and keeping each others best interests at heart. Ruth, Naomi, Boaz all of them take care of exactly the need that needs to be met in the moment, and they do it was such love! Their lives become beautiful reflections of the kind of love God wants to pour out on us.
Think about your own heart right now…
What do you need in this moment? What are you searching for every Sunday when you show up? What do you wish you could just boldly ask for, but are too shy to ask?
Seriously, take a minute and think about it.
We all have something. We all have needs that need to be met. A need that if met, would take us one layer deeper in our understanding of God’s love. Sometimes we need an encouraging word, sometimes we need someone to listen. Sometimes we just need someone to look at us, know our name, and acknowledge that we exist. And from time to time, we need extraordinary measures of help. When our right now need isn’t met we head for the door disheartened. We came for hope, and it fell short, and thus the search continues in hopes of finding someone or something to satisfy our need. Ultimately it leaves a bad taste in our mouths about who God really is. It makes it hard to linger in a place where his own ambassadors (you and I) show no reflection of what he stands for.
Now think about each other. Do you have each others best interests in mind? Think about that one person you really don’t want to bump into, or can’t seem to find anything in common with. Do you have her best interests in mind? Can you meet a right now need in her life? It really doesn’t take much, most of us just desire to be included, and to know that someone wants to know how our week went. And, if you are able to help with someone’s extraordinary need, then do so. Quietly, privately, without boasting, lend a helping hand.
So, can we stop pushing eternity for a minute? Can we look at each other and not judge whether that person is “good enough” for heaven. Can we please just have the best interests of each other in mind? What do I have to offer you right now? How can I not just tell you about Jesus, but be an example of his love in a real way to you that you need? Brick by brick we can warm the hearts of those around us. Brick by brick we can slowly begin to trust that those around us really do have our best interests are heart.
I challenge you this week to take the time to hear someone’s heart. Stop talking, stop selling, stop judging and listen. Then respond in a way THEY need it. Show that you’ve noticed them in a right now kind of way, and trust that God will be glorified through your actions.