Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thy People Shall Be My People

As we saw last time, as we are progressively sanctified and conformed to His image, our natural emotional response to fellow Christians can mature from philia, or brotherly love, into self-sacrificing agape love. Christ's indwelling Holy Spirit lets us love unconditionally and sacrificially, not only other believers but also the unsaved (1 Pet. 1:22).

2 Peter 1:5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

Peter explains the progression of how Christians can develop agape love to one another. We have to work at it and be passionate about this transformation! It doesn’t come naturally. It starts by being saved, i.e. having faith in Christ, which allows us to be obedient in our desire to please Him. Obedience makes us more likely to be virtuous and less likely to sin, and more likely to study His Word and gain Biblical knowledge and Godly wisdom. That will improve our self-control, or temperance, and give us more patience toward others when they disappoint us. That makes us more conformed to Christ’s image, first showing philia or brotherly kindness toward other Christians, and finally showing charity, or self-sacrificing agape love for one another and also for the lost (John 13:35).

Jesus Himself showed how philia can become agape when He said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Jesus even called Judas “friend,” who betrayed Him (Matt. 26:50), but Jesus went from philia to agape as he paid for the sins of Judas and of all men. The self-sacrifice of Christ did not end with His pain, suffering, and even death, but, it led to His joy at being the means of salvation for all mankind (Hebrews 12:2).

Similarly, the friendship and kindness we show to others will be returned to us many times over, and even acts of self-sacrifice for our friends will reap eternal rewards. An excellent Bible example of this transformation from kindness and respect, to sharing a common belief, to self-sacrifice without expecting anything in return and ultimately to blessings beyond measure, is the story of Ruth.

Naomi and her two sons lacked faith in that they left Bethlehem, where God had promised to provide for them, during a time of famine (1:1). They traveled to Moab, where Naomi’s husband died and her sons each married a Moabitess woman, one of whom was Ruth and the other Orpah (1:4). This also was an act of disobedience to God’s command of not intermarrying with pagan people.

When Naomi’ two sons died about 10 years later , both her daughters-in-law initially offered to stay with her, but she encouraged them to return to the homes of their parents so that they could stay in their home country of Moab and find new husbands there (1:8-13). This is agape love on Naomi’s part, because she is now a sad, old woman who has lost her husband and sons, yet she is willing to risk traveling alone back to Bethlehem so that she would not be a burden to Ruth and Orpah and so that they could make new lives for themselves. Orpah willingly agreed, but Ruth’s friendship toward Naomi went far deeper, and she begged her to let her accompany her to Israel (1:14-16).

16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

Ruth pledges her life to Naomi, not only accompanying her on the journey, but wanting to go wherever she goes and to live wherever she lives, accepting Naomi’s people as her own even though she has never met them and knows nothing about the country and its customs. She even accepts Naomi’s God as her own, which shows that the agape love of a believer toward an unsaved person may lead them to the Lord.

But the blessings she reaped back in Israel, along with the barley she gleaned in Boaz’ field (Ruth 2), were not only the faithful friendship, love and good advice of Naomi (3:1-5), but provision for her physical needs (3:15), a loving marriage to Boaz (4:13), and even giving birth to a son who would be a forefather of to Jesus Christ Himself! (4:17). She gave up all she knew, but she gained faith in the only true God, and with that, the blessings that only He can offer.

Love in Christ,

Laurie Collett

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