Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 54; 146, Ruth 1:15-22, 2 Corinthians 1:12-22, Matthew 5:13-20
If today’s passage from Ruth sounds familiar, you may have heard it during a wedding ceremony. Ruth’s pledge of fidelity to Naomi is so moving, many select this scripture to reflect the commitment intended in marriage. The relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is very different from that between spouses, yet this scripture touches on something common to both.
Ruth has no legal or cultural obligations to her mother-in-law. Why would she choose not only to stay with the destitute Naomi, but to promise “Where you die, I will die?” In any relationship, there are three parties: the first person, the second person, and the relationship itself. Ruth, like a spouse would, commits herself not only to Naomi, but to the relationship between them. This may seem like a subtle distinction, but a relationship has needs distinct from the needs of either party. Absent an effort by both parties to meet those needs, the relationship will not survive. We all know couples who love each other but can’t make the relationship work, or friends who, despite best intentions, drift away over time. We describe such people as “growing apart,” but these words frequently mask an inability or unwillingness to nurture a relationship.
We can only commit to other people – whether through a marriage, a friendship, a faith community, etc. – when we recognize and honor that a relationship exists to serve not only our individual needs, but a greater purpose. When we don’t, we hold commitments lightly and break them easily. But when we do, we grow into the challenges and joys that are part of surrendering to something greater than ourselves. Sometimes this looks like foolishness to the world, but we know better in our hearts.
Through his letters to the church at Corinth (and other places) Paul is constantly telling the faithful their role in God’s larger realm transcends individual desires. A large part of Christ’s message is about being in right – and true – relationship with each other. Making a commitment to Christ means recognizing the needs of relationship do not extinguish but transform the desires of the individual.
Comfort: Being part of something larger helps us grow as people.
Challenge: Meditate on your relationships. Which require more or deeper commitment?
Prayer: Loving God, teach me to fill the space between me and other people with love. Amen.
Discussion: What are the common needs of platonic and romantic relationships?
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