As a young twenty-something growing up in the age of online dating, I have not been conditioned to prioritize terms like “loyalty” and “faithfulness”. Our culture conditioned younger generations to seek immediate gratification, and try on people like we would try on clothes. Being a loyal or faithful person in relationships or friendships is not necessarily encouraged or promoted by the media these days.
In my opinion, I think my generation associates the terms “loyalty” and “faithfulness” with being bound, stuck, or having lack of personal freedom. To some extent that is true. When you are in a faithful and loyal relationship, you sacrifice some level of personal freedom. You have to think about another person and make decisions with them. You might even have to compromise your own plans. However, I think the idea of faithfulness depends on the way you look at it. Are you binding yourself to something or someone, or making an intentional commitment?
In a culture where faithfulness and loyalty are hard to find, where can we find examples of these characteristics? When I think about loyalty and faithfulness it reminds me of the book of Ruth.
Ruth, Naomi and a story of faithfulness
The book of Ruth is a relatively short and beautiful story. I highly recommend it. The story begins with a family from Bethlehem moving to the country of Moab to escape a famine. The father and the two sons die leaving Naomi and the two Moabite daughters-in-law as widows. Naomi hears that the Lord has blessed Bethlehem with food, and decides to leave the foreign country. She tells her daughters-in-law that the Lord has turned his back against her, and has left her with no family. Naomi urges them to go back to their parents' homes, but they refuse to leave. They begin to sob, and Naomi says it is more bitter for her than for them.
Orpah, one of the daughters-in-law, then kisses Naomi goodbye, but Ruth stays. In fact, Ruth clings to Naomi and says,
Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me. [Ruth 1:16-17]
Naomi sees then that Ruth is persistent in staying and stops urging her to go. The two returned from Moab, and got to Bethlehem right as the barley harvest started.
In the book of Ruth, faithfulness and loyalty are noble characteristics. It is because of Ruth’s noble character that she caught the attention of a local man named Boaz. Boaz assisted in the restoration of her family.
I think this goes to show what God values. This biblical story is a perfect example of how God wants to be in our relationships. Just as the Lord rewarded Ruth for her faithfulness, God will reward us if we uphold noble character.
As a young woman myself, it’s hard for me to imagine how hard it was for Ruth to leave her home country. In her time, even to go out to the fields and harvest was dangerous. But not only was Ruth faithful, she was brave. Ruth clung to her faith. She didn’t know what was going to happen when she decided to leave home for an unknown land. She could have easily stayed, and made a new life for herself after the passing of her husband.
God’s unseen ways
This story is not only a reflection of how we should be faithful It’s also a reminder of how God is faithful to us. The story tells of Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi, but it also tells of God’s faithfulness to God’s people.
The interesting thing about the book of Ruth is that God is never mentioned by the narrator in the story. God is not doing anything directly in the story, yet God is seen through divine timing and providence. God is there working behind the scenes to weave together the actions and choices that the characters make. This story allows us to reflect on how God is at work in the day-to-day monotony, tragedies, and joys of life. We learn from this story that when we are faithful to God and what God values, new possibilities and a better vision for our reality opens to us.
Madison Myers is a student at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in marketing. She has traveled to a majority of America's National Parks and is eager to see them all.