“May the Lord do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:17)
She was closing off all her options. Though she was a childless widow, Ruth was still young. She could have found a husband among her own people. What future was there in following her mother-in-law back to Israel, a foreign land with more than its share of hungry immigrants trying to scrape together a life?
Naomi tried to send her back. She had known enough bitterness already. Why follow this uncertain path where only more tragedy likely awaited? But Ruth would not give up on this friend she had come to love so dearly. This relentless , foolhardy loyalty — for her there was no other option.
Paul too could have turned back. The Roman government never really liked heresy trials. He wore fetters, but he knew that with a pinch of incense and a muttered formula he could go free again. But the Lord who saved him, the gospel he preached, held him fast. Suffering was part of authentic faith. As the soldier obeys his orders, as an athlete follows the rules, as a farmer labors on until the sun sets — so must the apostle fulfill his mission. He always clings to Christ. Old man Paul’s words are like nothing so much as the defiant cry Polycarp hurled back at a Roman tormenter just a few generations later: “Eighty six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
The tenth leper, too, has nowhere else to go. “Go and show yourselves to the priests,” Jesus had bade the men —have your healing certified so that you can pick life back up where you left it before your disease took over. Samaritans, though, weren’t welcome in the temple. The grateful man brought his thank offering to one place where he knew God was changing the world — right at the feet of Jesus. His faith saved him — the faith that clung to Christ.
Apostasy is not a new temptation. There were twelve apostles, but only one stood watch at the cross. In a world of broken promises and hedged bets, we could hardly understand this kind of unwavering loyalty, this totally committed love — except that God has shown it to us first. “If we are faithless,” Paul promises, “he remains faithful.”
Look It Up
Compare Rom. 6:1-14 with 2 Tim. 2:11-13. Why is the call to unwavering loyalty not just for the Church’s leaders?
Think About It
Do you think the tenth leper followed Jesus to Jerusalem?