Hope and Assurance in Ruth

This is definitely one of those posts where I speak from the heart rather than teach from the head.

I was up in the mountains spending Shavuot (Pentecost for my Sunday-brethren) with some friends, and didn’t hear about the Orlando shooting until I dropped in on my current synagogue’s Shavuot picnic. I can say with all honesty that I’m very sorry for those who died and for those who must now live on with the grief of having lost their loved ones and friends.

I can say more cynically that I expect the Regressive Left to use this to flog their usual hobby horses of gun control and “organized religion” (by which they really mean Christianity). I hope that they will resist the temptation.

I write this from the perspective of one who has more than one gay family member, all of whom I love dearly and would lay down my life for without hesitation. Having spent a fair amount of time with people of the gay persuasion, I believe that many (I will not say all) are sad clowns, hiding deep wounds beneath an air of childlike enthusiasm. And, unfortunately, the Christian and Messianic communities have not done a very good job of showing love to them–the general attitude seems to be, “Repent of being gay, and then the Lord might accept you,” which is a legalistic reversal of the true Gospel.

Look at Ruth of Moab, for example: “”No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you” (Deu. 23:3-4). And yet, Ruth was accepted by Boaz and his people simply because she was kind in taking care of her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Ruth Gleaning

Many years ago, I was between jobs and freelancing to make ends meet. I did everything from building spreadsheets and databases for small businesses to house-cleaning to make ends meet. One of my house-cleaning contracts was a gay couple. They were very picky about how their house was kept, but they were also very good to me, such as giving me videotapes of sci-fi movies when they discovered I was a geek. (And doesn’t the format of those movies date me!) They knew I was a Christian (this being before I knew Messianic Judaism was a thing), but we were on really good terms regardless. The mutual respect across what is normally a hard boundary gave me a chance to give the Gospel by my actions as much or more than by my words.

While I don’t like the way “homophobia” is tossed around in a name-calling attempt to silence critics of the homosexual movement, there is a real element of truth to the charge: Christians and Messianics who have no trouble witnessing and being kind to alcoholics, porn-addicts, or that really bitter guy who you have to work with are all-too-often squicked-out by the thought of homosexuality. “It’s an abominiation!” they say, quoting Leviticus 18:22.

Okay, sure. But guess what? So is eating pork (at least for a Jew, Deu. 14:3ff), or reading a horoscope (Due. 18:10-12), or even being dishonest in business (Deu. 25:13-16)!

And what the Moabites did to Israel, calling in a prophet to cause the children of Israel to stumble, was so abominable that God said that it would take at least ten generations for any of them to be acceptable in the temple–or else, that they could never be accepted in the temple (Deu. 23:3-6)!

And yet, we have Ruth.

Ruth, who like Rahab before her and Bathsheba (literally, the “daughter of Sheba”) after her became part of the Davidic (and Messianic) line (Mat. 1:5-6).

Nobody told Ruth that she should magically change her heritage to become part of Israel. She simply said to Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). She didn’t somehow stop speaking Hebrew with a Moabite accent before Boaz married her. All she did was accept his marriage covenant.

Someone who is gay doesn’t have to stop “being gay” before the Lord will accept them. No, first the Lord accepts them as cleansed by the Messiah Yeshua’s blood, then he puts his Holy Spirit into them, and then they are transformed by that Spirit. To use Protestant terms, you aren’t sanctified before you are justified.

A few months ago, I was able to share the Gospel with a young man who was so addicted to alcohol that he was drinking gin from a 64-ounce Styrofoam cup. I didn’t tell him that he had to get rid of the cup first. I talked with him without condemnation and brought him to the point where he willingly prayed the sinners prayer with me. Only then I asked him, “Would you like me to get rid of that for you?” He willingly, and gratefully, handed over the cup of booze, and I tossed it in the nearest trash can.

That young man will probably always struggle with addiction, and have to avoid taking even the smallest drop of wine to avoid being drawn back in. And yet, his willingness to act in faith will be honored and his life will be fundamentally transformed.

A person who has been homosexual who comes to the Lord will probably always be attracted to those of the same sex. And yet, I’ve heard the testimony of those who have been given over to that lifestyle, and how the Spirit has transformed them.

Ruth probably always struggled with a sense of uncertainty of her place in Israeli society. (You can get that sense just from how she speaks, particularly in the Hebrew.) It’s possible that in some sense that she was always something of an outsider. And yet, her faithfulness first to Naomi and then to Boaz fundamentally transformed her and her whole life.

We see this pattern all throughout Scripture. Yeshua didn’t tell Matthew and Zacchias to stop being tax collectors or to stop ripping off their clients first. He called them first, and then they spontaneously left their old ways in response. Nor did the Holy One tell Israel to keep the Torah in Egypt before he redeemed them. No, first Israel was redeemed and brought to Sinai, and then they learned the Torah–on Shavuot.

Shavuot is a time when we celebrate that those redeemed in Passover are given God’s word and are empowered by the Spirit to carry out the word. While we need to discipline in love those who are “in the camp,” so to speak, we must not try to impose such discipline on those who do not claim to be members of the Messiah’s body (1Co. 5:9-13). Rather, we should be like Boaz, showing kindness to those who are outside of God’s kingdom so that they may be brought near. When they are redeemed from slavery, they may be taught God’s ways–not before. In the meantime, we must show them love.

Shalom

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