Ruth 1:16 has always been my favorite scripture verse. I always get puzzled looks when I say this. For Christians who pick a favorite verse, it is usually in the New Testament and refers to God’s love for us after the death of Christ. The book of Ruth, however, is in the Old Testament and chronicles Ruth’s love for Naomi, her former mother-in-law:
“Please don’t tell me to leave you and return home! I will go where you go, I will live where you live; your people will be my people, your God will be my God. I will die where you die and be buried beside you. May the Lord punish me if we are ever separated, even by death!’ – Ruth 1:16-17, CEV.
Both of Naomi’s sons had died, Ruth having been married to one of them. Naomi tells her two daughters-in-law to return home to their parents and remarry but Ruth refuses to do so, as she states in the verse above.
Ruth is under no obligation to stay with Naomi but she is fiercely devoted to her regardless. Ruth travels to a new town where she and Naomi live in poverty. She works tirelessly in the fields collecting wheat so that she and Naomi will have something to eat. Ruth does eventually remarry a man named Boaz, who helps her and Naomi get back on their feet. And when she and Boaz have a son, he is known as Naomi’s child, even though she bears no real relation to him.
The book of Ruth tells a story of love that stretches beyond blood ties or obligation. This story is so touching to me because it shows that God’s love for us was real long before Jesus was crucified. It shows that God has always expected us to be compassionate and selfless toward one another, even before Jesus came down to say so. We were made to love as relentlessly as Ruth did, no matter what it costs us. That kind of love is what made Jesus die for us and it is through loving one another that we can honor His sacrifice.