Agape. This is a Greek word usually associated with God’s love for man. This word describes charity, unconditional love at its fullest, a love which offers sacrificing for the good of another person, a full and pure form of love. Yes, it certainly defines God’s love for us as His children, but for the purpose of this devotion, I want to focus on where it is evident in another story: the story of Naomi and Ruth.
Having escaped the famine in Bethlehem in Judah, Naomi and her family make their home in Moab. Naomi’s husband dies only to be followed by both of her sons. This leaves Naomi with only her daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth, as family. She learns that the Lord provided for the people in Judah, so she decides to return to her home. Orpah and Ruth begin to follow her, but Naomi turns and says in Ruth 1:8-9:
“Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Orpah and Ruth say they will go with Naomi, but Naomi insists they return to their own people. There is a plea for them to return. Although the Bible doesn’t describe Naomi’s mood or tone, the emotions in what she says next show a grief-stricken woman in despair, telling them that the “Lord has turned against her”. Ruth 1:13
Orpah heeds her command and turns back, but Ruth doesn’t. Then, in one of the most beautiful, love-filled scenes, Ruth 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
Friends, this is Agape.
This is a love so deep, selfless, unconditional and sacrificing. Ruth is not going with Naomi just to be nice or just to take care of her. She is going with Naomi out of pure love. She is willing to leave her gods and accept God. She is willing to leave everything she knows – her people, her land, everything familiar, for the goodness of another. Agape.
I have been blessed to have more than one Ruth in my life – people who have walked with me in unfamiliar land, unconditionally loving me, and sacrificing just to be by my side.
I can only think of one word which could describe this Agape love: Christ-like.
Who has been a Ruth for you in your life?
Who is your Naomi that you can be a Ruth for?
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13