“The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. Ruth 3, verse 10.
Fred Phelps. Do you know the name? You may not know his name but, if you live in the US, you know of his church: Westboro Baptist Church. They’re the people who rabidly protest gays and soldier funerals (because soldiers defend a government that allows gays to have rights). If you’ve ever heard of these people, ‘crazy’ or ‘insensitive’ or ‘unGodly’ might be good words to describe their approach, and maybe them, and maybe even Fred Phelps himself. Phelps is dying; media reports say he’s near death. Before you respond further, let’s talk a little Ruth and Boaz.
In verse 10, Boaz is talking with Ruth after she signaled her intentions to him that she wished to become his wife. Both of them were acting in faith, acting upon the innermost wishes of their hearts in response to very real needs and choices in their lives (hers to live, his to prosper). How does this segue with a dying, ranting minister famous for spewing anything but the Gospel?
Both need forgiveness. Both can get forgiveness ONLY from God, from God the Son incarnate as Jesus Christ.
“Bless you,” said Boaz to the woman who looked at him in choosing kindness. “God hates fags,” spewed Reverend Phelps and his band of protesting parishioners. Rumor has it that, when the Freedom Riders prevented them from protesting a soldier’s funeral in McAlester, OK (my mom’s old hometown), all the tires of the WBC vehicles were slashed. Rumor has it further that they had to go many miles to find an open tire store during the middle of a busy work day.
Despite the love story they were writing, the real truth is that both Ruth and Boaz were sinners living in a fallen world. Her predicament, and his curious quandary on how to respond to it, are evidence of that. The Westboro people act out their own sins in so callously inflicting emotional pain, they say, to spread Jesus’ hard gospel truths. The folks who slashed their tires are sinners too.
I’ve said it before here: you and me: we’re Westboro people as well. We’re sinners. Without Jesus, Ruth and Boaz were damned. Without Jesus, Fred Phelps is damned. Without Jesus, you and I and everyone we know are damned, cut off from God’s eternal saving love forever. It’s not for punishment’s sake: it’s to preserve the holiness of that beautiful love.
One way God imparts that love to us is through forgiveness. Forgiveness given at Calvary for Ruth, who showed her love in choosing Boaz who didn’t need it. Forgiveness for anyone who does wrong, even me, you, or Fred Phelps. I pray he realizes that before it’s too late.
Lord, forgive me because I have sinned against you. Only You can forgive.
Read Ruth 3.
Why are your sins better than Fred Phelps’?
Have you taken your burdens to Jesus lately?
Who do you need to forgive?