Love stories are all around us. From romantic comedies, to love songs, and our Instagram feeds, we are told what to look for when it comes to love - but is that realistic? In this message, we look to a true love story that took place in the era of Judges to learn what to look for when it comes to real love.
Welcome, friends in the room, friends in Fort Worth, El Paso, Austin, Phoenix, Northwest Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, wherever you are tuning in from all of the different Porch Live locations. We are continuing this series Before There Were Kings. Before I go there, how about the Stars? Let's go, man! Back in the playoffs. I know most of you are probably fair-weather fans like myself, who now are on the Stars bandwagon just because we're back, but for you faithful, way to go. Way to stick with it.
About 20-some years ago, in the 90s, it seems like Hollywood entertainment looked at our country and looked at people and said, "It's interesting. People really love to laugh," and then they also said, "Do you know what else they love? We love love." So someone out there decided, "You know what we should try to do is combine these two things and come up with something that would be called the romantic comedy."
A rom-com. Any rom-com fans in this house? That's a very feminine "how" there. Prior to that, we had the romantic tragedy. They knew we loved romantic tragedies…not being a part of one but watching them, whether it's Titanic or The Notebook or Romeo and Juliet, a tale as old as time. Then onto the scene it seems like all of these romantic comedies just burst forth in the 90s.
I don't know what your favorite rom-com is, but from Hitch to The Proposal, There's Something About Mary (this is not an endorsement, by the way, for any of these movies), Sweet Home Alabama, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days [in that yellow dress], Pretty Woman, The Holiday, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, every movie by Matthew McConaughey that has his shirt off, it was like they burst onto the scene.
They were like, "People love love. They love to laugh. Let's do these things together," and the romantic comedy was born. We had the romantic tragedy, then we got the romantic comedy, and tonight, what I want to talk about is what is more common that all of us are going to experience, or hopefully, and that we have very few examples of: romantic reality. Unlike the other couple of categories… We have a lot of different variations or versions of those they'll put in front of you.
None of us would want to have a romantic tragedy. Maybe many of us would want to have a romantic comedy, but the truth is if you're going to have any type of romance at all it's going to be a story that is a romantic reality. You may be thinking, "We have a ton of romantic realities. We have The Bachelor. Isn't that romantic reality?" It is the farthest thing from reality, where 30 women are in front of one guy… This is setting up the worst possible relationship or future together, where they're flying around in helicopters. It's anything but reality TV.
So, tonight, I want to talk about having a romantic reality. If you're going to have any type of romance in your future, hopefully it's not a romantic tragedy. The bad news is a romantic comedy… These movies are just not real. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days [in that yellow dress] is not in your future, ladies. It just isn't. Hate to burst the bubble. But it is possible for you to have a romantic experience, a romantic life, a marriage that is one that is a romantic reality, but in order for that to happen you have to know what real romance is or what real love looks like.
One of the problems, a lot of times, due to these movies or maybe the songs we listen to or maybe just culture in general… From the moment we can watch TV or are introduced to culture, everything is thrust of "Here's what love looks like. You have Cory and Topanga. Here's Zack and Kelly. Here's what love really looks like." Yet all too often we rarely are given "Here's what real love looks like."
Tonight, we're going to talk about that topic, and here's why this is huge. So many people get into marriages and think, "Oh man, this is real love. We're going to have this, you and me together." They stand in front of someone who they promise before God, family, and friends, "I'm going to give the rest of my life to you. We're in it together." Then, within a very short time period, often within just a couple of years, that person they promised their life to they're signing papers to separate from. It ends not in romantic comedy or reality; it ends in tragedy.
The God who's there doesn't want that for you and me. Too often, they get into a romantic life or a romantic story and have a warped perspective on what real love is. So they get in, and because they don't know what real love actually looks like, they end up thinking, "Oh man! This is not going the way I thought it would" with that person they're married to. "I think I married the wrong person. I need to go look for that real love out there somewhere else."
They either end in divorce or they end up having decisions where they're going to look for it somewhere else. It may come by way of a coworker. It may come by way of a friend. It may come by way of someone else in their life, but they search for something they never actually… They don't even know what real love or the love they're looking for looks like. The good news is the Bible is very clear. When it comes to a spouse, here are some of the things you want to be looking at.
We're going to learn from the story of a woman in the Old Testament and a relationship she had that continues our series Before There Were Kings. In it we're going to discover three things that are a part of real love. If you're going to have real love, if you're going to have a romantic reality or if that being a part of your story is in your future, it will include these three things. If you're currently dating and don't have these things, you can know you're not headed toward a romantic reality but a romantic tragedy. So we're going to discover what those three things are.
We're going to continue this series Before There Were Kings. To recap, in case you're just joining us for the first time or you missed a couple, Before There Were Kings is a look at the book of Judges. The book of Judges is essentially a story that talks about the people of God in the Old Testament, and it was a time when there was no king in Israel. There's a verse inside of the book that says, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes." It's basically a time period before there were kings.
God would raise up these things called judges. Like we've said before, a judge in ancient Israel was essentially a deliverer. It wasn't like we think of a judge, Judge Judy, has the gown on. It was a person who would show up, and God would deliver his people through a judge. The story we're going to look at comes from not the book of Judges tonight but the book of Ruth. The very first verse of the book says, "This took place in the time when judges ruled Israel."
In fact, many scholars believe that Ruth, this love story, if you will, was originally a part of the book of Judges. It's so sharply distinct from the book of Judges that they were like, "We should separate this." The book of Judges is total chaos, carnage, war. It's like Braveheart. At some point they were like, "We should separate this, because this is like Braveheart and this is like The Notebook. We're going to make these two different books."
Tonight, we're going to take a break from Braveheart and look at the story of the book of Ruth, of The Notebook, as it were. We're going to learn three principles, three components that are always a part of real love. We'll be in Ruth, chapter 1. I'm going to fly through. I'm going to tell the story and then give three takeaways. We're going to go through four chapters of the book of the Bible, and I'll summarize some of that. We will fly. If you did not have some time in God's Word today, you are about to get it. So let's go. Verse 1 of chapter 1 in Ruth:
"In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land." So, a severe famine shows up. This is the first thing we're told. "So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him." Here's all you need to know about Moab. Who lived in Moab? The Moabites, of course. Who were the Moabites? They weren't exactly great people.
They were a people who worshiped a god who demanded child sacrifice. They were the enemies of the people of God, but because of the famine, this guy, we're told… Our story begins with a man picking up and moving to the country of Moab. He shouldn't have done it, but here we go. It begins the story. He takes with him his wife whose name is Naomi, and they have two sons they take with them. They all pick up and move over to the country of Moab.
While they're in Moab, something very quickly happens. The sons end up getting married to two Moabite women, and shortly after that, their father dies. Then it says about 10 years go by. They've married these pagan women, and we're told next that the two sons die. Naomi, the mom… Remember she was the mom. She had two sons. She had a husband. Her husband dies, and then her two sons die, and she's left with just her and these two women who are not even related to her other than through the sons. They were daughters-in-law, and now they're just women.
Here's why that's significant. If you're Naomi in that time, this was a big deal. There weren't 401(k)s. There wasn't Fidelity. There wasn't any sort of like "Here's your IRA. Put it in this." The way you had retirement was you had a child, and you would basically say, "You're my retirement fund. You're going to take care of me when I get old." So when you lose your children, this is a big deal, especially when you're an older woman like Naomi was.
So she looks at her two former daughters-in-law and says, "Here's the deal. I'm old. I can't do anything for you. I need to go back to Israel, to my homeland. You guys should stay here and figure it out. Go back to your own families, and maybe you can get married again. You're still relatively young." So there are two women she says this to, one of them named Ruth, the other named Orpah, an unfortunate name, but here we go.
Orpah looks at her and is like, "No, we can't leave you. That would be not good. We need to stay here for you." She's like, "No, I insist," and Orpah is like, "Deuces!" and she leaves. Ruth, we're told, is steadfast and says, "No. There's no way I'm leaving you. Who would care for you? Who's going to protect you?" And she introduces the line that if you've been in any church wedding somewhere you probably have heard this line. It's a very beautiful line.
Ruth says in verse 16 of chapter 1, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God." Naomi says, "If you insist. Here we go." They head back toward the town of Bethlehem, if you know the story of Jesus, where he was born. They head home to Bethlehem. That's where they were from originally.
It says Ruth and Naomi get there, and the people of Bethlehem are like, "Dude! Naomi is back. It's been a minute. Where you been?" She says, "Don't call me Naomi…" I love the Bible because it's so honest. She says, "Call me Mara, which means bitter, because my life has become bitter." Ruth and Mara (bitter) set up shop, and we're told they have returned at the time of the harvest. So they kind of go to work, and they set up shop. They're like, "We have to get something to eat." They're hanging around.
One day, Ruth says, "Hey, Naomi, I'm going to go get us some food. It's the time of the harvest. It means there are crops. There's grain out there. I'm going to go try to find us something to eat." We're told this in chapter 2, verse 2: "One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, 'Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.' Naomi replied, 'All right, my daughter, go ahead.'"
Basically, in that time, if you were a farmer, God, because he cared about the poor (and still does), would say, "If you're a farmer, there are certain rules to farming. You can't pick up all of your crops. You basically have to leave some, a certain amount, so poor people walking through the land can take some of your food so they'll have something to eat." It was God's first welfare system introduced, if you would. So Ruth says, "Hey, I'm going to go get some of that food. I know God has commanded that they're going to do it." She heads over to the field of a certain farmer.
"So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech." Here we meet our Don Juan and our bachelor. Boaz, we're told, is the owner of this land. She shows up. She's picking up the wheat grain and hanging out there. We're told he's also a family member. In other words, Ruth's former husband who died… This was one of his distant family members, so he's in that clan and in the party.
She's walking through the fields picking up grain, hanging out, and the love story begins. As she's doing that, we're told in verse 5, Boaz looked out and asked his foreman, "Who is that woman over there, and who does she belong to?" Translation: insert "How you doin'?" from Joey of Friends style. She's picking up grains, looking around, and he's like, "That girl is fine. I have not seen her around here before. Who is that?" He's told that she's Ruth and she's the one who has moved here and is caring for Naomi.
So Boaz works up some strength, goes over, puts on the farmer flirt, and he decides, "I'm going to ask you to go on a date." They have their first date. It tells us they sit down with grain. The detail it goes into is fascinating. They sit down with grain. They're having roasted bread with oil and vinegar. Think Macaroni Grill. They're just sitting there, and he's like, "So where are you from?" They begin to talk, and they're eating this meal.
We're told that Boaz just lavishes food on her. Of course, she probably had been hungry. They had been part of a famine. He's giving her food. At the end of the meal, he's like, "Here are 40 pounds of food. Take this home to your mother-in-law. We're going to take care of you." He says, "Anytime you want to pick grain, you come to this field. You can have all the grain you want. Anytime you come to get water, I've got you covered with water." I mean, he's putting it on hard right now. Boaz is going extra.
She's like, "Man, why are you being so kind to me?" and he's like, "Not only that. I'm going to protect you. I've told all of my guys, 'Protect this woman.' Come here, because I'll protect you. I've told anybody if they lay a hand on you they are messing with me. So you come back to this field." She says, "Why are you being so kind?" and he says, "Because I've heard of the kindness and the loyalty you have shown to your family." Here's verse 10. I'll read it.
"Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. 'What have I done to deserve such kindness?' she asked. 'I am only a foreigner.' 'Yes, I know,' Boaz replied. 'But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.'"
So he loads her up. She heads home with food. She gets home that night, and she begins to say, "I met this guy." Naomi is like, "Where did you get all this food? This is unbelievable." She's carrying a grocery cart full of a lot of food. We're told that she comes home and Naomi goes, "Where did you get all this food?" and Ruth said, "There was this guy named Boaz, and he gave me all this food."
Naomi goes, "Boaz? I know Boaz. He is one of our family relatives. He is a potential family redeemer." I'll explain what that means. Essentially, she says, "Hey, he is a potential option for you, girl. We have a chance." She goes into matchmaker mode. Anybody have a mom who's like, "Hey, when are you going to get married?" This is what Naomi goes into. She begins to think, "Oh man. We're going to make this happen." She begins to play matchmaker in her life, like any good mom would do.
So they're beginning to talk. Basically, what a family redeemer means was at that time in Israel God had said that if two people get married and the husband dies, if they have no children, a close relative can marry and should marry the woman so as to continue the legacy of that family to care for the land, to care for their estate, and all of that. Certain family members were designated as family redeemers, if you will. That's the term. It was a part of the law. Point being, he basically is on the list of like, "He could be your beau, your Boaz."
So she goes to work. She begins to plan. She goes back day after day. She's going there every single day getting food, like, "Hey, how are you doing?" One day, Naomi… I love this. This is so great. This is gold. This is free, people. I'm having fun if no one else is. Naomi tells her, "Here's what I want you to do. I have the plan." Hits her one day. She says, "Ruth, here's what we're going to do. I've come up with a plan. I need you to take a shower."
She says, "I need you to clean up. I need you to put on your nicest clothes and put on some perfume so you don't smell like the field. Okay? Tonight you're going to go to Boaz's house, and he's going to be lying down. He's going to be under the covers. I want you to go up, and you're going to pull and uncover his feet." Sidenote: not prescriptive or not telling you to do this. This is not something that girls should leave here and be like, "The application tonight, moral of the story: break into a guy's home, pull up the covers on his feet, and lay there." It was part of the custom of the day.
So she says, "Hey, you're going to go. You're going to pull back the covers and lay at his feet, and when he awakes you're basically going to propose." She's like, "Are you sure that'll work?" She's like, "It'll work. Just trust me. Here's the perfume." She goes to his house. It was just a part of the custom of the day. Boaz is sleeping. We're told she pulls back the covers, she lays at his feet, which essentially was a sign of submission, like, "Hey, would you be willing if I come underneath your care?"
We're told she's lying down, sleeping there, and Boaz wakes up in the middle of the night and says, "Who is at my feet?" Of course that has to be a little freaky. He's like, "Who is that?" She says, "Hey, it's me, Ruth," and responds with this: "'Who are you?' he asked. 'I am your servant Ruth,' she replied. 'Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.'"
Basically, what she does in this moment is she says, "Will you take me underneath your care? Will you marry me?" She basically says, "Hey, if you like it, then you should have put a ring on it, and you should put a ring on it right now. Would you like to?" That's what she does. Boaz, we're told, then goes into like, "Wow! Oh, man. Me? This is amazing. Okay. Yes, I am close enough to marry you. You know what? Let's do it." Then it hits him. There's a problem.
No love story is good without some little twist inside of it. He realizes, "There's a closer family relative who would have the first right of refusal in line to get married to you before me." He's single. He has been waiting to get married, and he finally has his girl in front of him, but then he realizes, "Oh no. There's someone else who has the first right. I have to ask them."
So he goes to that guy, this other family redeemer, and he begins to say, "Hey, there's this woman in town. She's pretty homely. I wouldn't want to have anything to do with her, but, you know." He doesn't say that, but you have to be thinking he's thinking it. "You know, you could. I wouldn't, probably, but would you like to?" He basically explains to the guy, "Do you want to marry Ruth and continue on their family legacy?"
The guy is like, "Eh, I'm okay." He basically said, "I don't want to. That would come at too much cost. I don't want to pay that price. It's too risky. I'm not really interested," and moves on. So Boaz is like, "Look. I guess if I have to I'll step up and play ball, and I'll marry her" and probably dances home. He decides, "We're going to get married." So the two of them finally are united together. They get married, and here's what happens in verse 9 of chapter 4:
"Then Boaz said to the elders and to the crowd standing around, 'You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon.'" That was the husband and the two sons. "And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today."
Verse 13: "So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son." Verse 17: "The neighbor women said, 'Now at last Naomi has a son again!' And they named him Obed." So this was a baby boy. Naomi is sitting there holding this grandbaby who she never thought she was going to have, and they name him Obed.
Obed would grow up and have another son named Jesse, and Jesse would grow up and have another son named David, who would become the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Jesus. The story not only ends with an amazing birth of a child in Bethlehem, but it foreshadows and points to another child who would be born in that same city later.
Also inside of this story we're given three things that comprise real love. We're shown real love both by Ruth and by Boaz, what it looks like to live that out. Not to feel it on the inside but what it looks like to actually live that out. So I just want to hang here for a second and talk about three components of real love.
If you're in a dating relationship, if you hope to be in a dating relationship, you should take notes. These are components that come directly from God's Word. Anytime you see someone experiencing the type of relationship and romantic reality God wants for them, that he wants them to experience inside of marriage, it will include these three things, guaranteed.
The first one comes from something we see in the life of Ruth. What is real love like? Real love stays. Even when it's hard, even when it would cost them, even when they don't want to, it decides, "I'm going to choose to stay with this person." Ruth displays this as clearly as any part of the story for her mother-in-law Naomi, the mother of her husband. Think about the way she committed herself.
Think about that. Your husband dies. You were just married to a husband. Her mom is there, and you say, "I'm not going back to my family. I'm not committed to my family to ride or die. You, lady, I am with until death do we part." Think about that pledge she gives to her. She says, "Wherever you go, your God is going to be my God." She converted to Judaism. She becomes a person who says, "I'm going to commit to you and commit to follow your way and commit to care for you for the rest of your life," despite what it would have cost her.
Why do I think it would cost her? What do I mean? Think about it. If you're her and you're hoping, "Someday I hope to get married again. I hope I'm going to have someone who can come into my life…" Think about how your chances diminish when you have an old, bitter woman with you everywhere you go.
"Hey, we're a package deal. You look on my online Match.com dating profile, and it's me and a bitter woman here. If you come and want to marry me, we're a package deal. You have to care for her. Who's that? My mom? No, it's not my mom. It's actually my dead husband's mom." How did that work? But she says, "Even if it costs me, I'm going to care for you. I'm choosing. I'm not going to allow you to wander off. I'm not going to allow you to go anywhere. I am choosing to care," because real love stays. She stayed for the rest of her life with her.
When it comes to a relationship you want to have that involves real love, you need to be looking for someone who says, "I am going to stay loyal to you no matter what we face. I'm not going anywhere no matter how hard it is. I'm going to walk alongside of you even when the days get hard. I am committed to this." Someone who has an understanding of marriage, which is not "If it works, it works. If not, we'll part our ways." Marriage is this unending relationship we're entering into.
Real love always stays even when it's hard. As you date people right now, one of the ways you can see is "Is this someone who keeps their commitments?" Essentially, dating is an interview, and every time you go on a date you are saying, "Am I going to let you have another interview?" You need to be exploring that. Is this someone who keeps their commitments, whose life is marked by flakiness or by keeping their commitments?
The weirdest thing about this is there's something in the dating world… I remember it. I may be old and it may have been a while, but I remember it. Mystery is attractive. The longer they wait to text me back, the more I'm like, "I don't think they want me." It makes me want to be in it even more. There's something about it we're attracted to, but here's the truest way I can say it: Mystery now becomes shady later, and you do not want shady; you want steady.
Mysterious now, as much as it's like, "Oh man, what is he thinking up there…?" Probably very little, but mysterious and flaky now becomes shady later, and you do not want shady; you want steady. Are you dating someone who keeps their commitments, whose life is marked by flakiness or by faithfulness?
Further, a way you can know if you're dating someone who is going to stay is as it relates to marriage, what do they think or how do they think about marriage? Do they see marriage as a consumer, contractual relationship? "If you do these things then maybe we'll keep together. If not, then I don't know that I'm in this." Or is it a covenant relationship? Is it a consumer relationship or a covenant? You want to be with someone who sees "This is a covenant."
What is a covenant? A covenant is something you enter into that cannot be broken except by death. Too many marriages, sadly, are all too commonly consumer relationships, not covenant relationships. What's a consumer relationship? We have a lot of consumer relationships in life. A consumer relationship is essentially a relationship where "I'm going to stay until I can find something better. I'm going to stay until my expectations aren't met. I'm going to stay until I can find a better deal, a better product, a better [whatever]."
I have a consumer relationship (and I bet all of you do, we all do) with my car insurance company. The moment GEICO can beat the price of Allstate or State Farm or whatever company you use, you jump ship. Same thing happens with your cell phone. Those are consumer relationships. The moment a Trader Joe's moves in next door, I am leaving you, Tom Thumb, and I am headed to Trader Joe's. There's a consumer relationship. "If it doesn't work or if there's something that would work better for me, I'm leaving this."
Marriage is not a consumer relationship; it is a covenant relationship. "I am in this till death do us part. I am never leaving." You need to be on the same page, candidly, as it relates to divorce. Every wedding I've ever done, there's a question I ask the bride and groom before I'll ever do the wedding. It is "What are the circumstances under which you would divorce him? What are the circumstances under which you would divorce her? We're about to stand before God and make some pretty crazy promises, so let's just talk it all out here."
Every time, they always say, "Oh, nothing. There's no time I ever would." "If he ends up cheating on you with your best friend, are you going to divorce him? If so, let's just write that into the vows. It's going to be uncomfortable and make Grandma feel awkward, but, hey, 'Until death do us part or you cheat on me with my best friend, I'm with you.'" It's funny, but it's tragic, because all too common we stand in front of one another and make these promises, and they're lies. They're not true. We'll defend it and be like, "Well, I had an out here."
The God of the Bible says "Divorce is never my ideal." We've done messages, and there are resources in case you want to know more about divorce and what the Bible teaches about that. You can go find more of that stuff on theporch.live. Here's my point. You need to be on the same page about "What type of relationship are we entering into? Is this a covenant or a contract, a covenant or a consumer relationship?" Real love stays, and the God who's there wants you to have a relationship that is marked by a real love that says, "I'm not going anywhere no matter what happens."
The second quality we see from this story that jumps out is related to Boaz. Boaz models a number of different things. There are so many things we could pull out from the text, but one of the things he clearly models is that real love serves. Boaz serves Ruth through a couple of ways. He serves everybody. He's opening up his field. He's following God's law, saying, "I'm leaving food for you guys. I'm going to serve you." He goes above and beyond to serve Ruth. "I'm going to give you food. I'm going to load you up, before you've done anything for me."
They had no promise of marriage, and he says, "I'm not doing this because I think we're going to get married or I'm going to get laid. I'm doing this because I think it's the right thing and I want to serve you. You come eat as much food as you want anytime here. I'm going to care for these two widows in my midst." He displayed a real love that serves. Real love always serves. Out of the overflow of that love, it moves to serve other people around you.
The second way he served was that he protected her. He sought not just to provide for her but he said, "I'm going to be a source of protection for you, and I'm going to serve you." If you hope to date or you're dating someone right now, you should evaluate, "Am I dating someone who serves? Is this someone who's a servant?" What do I mean by that? Do I see them serving their roommates? Do I see them going out of their way to go care for people?
I mean little things like every time I talk to him he's like, "Saturday morning I'm going to help somebody move" or he's going to the airport to go pick somebody up or he's going to care for his family member because his mom doesn't have someone who can mow the yard or she's going to serve different family members because her grandmother doesn't have anybody who's there to care for her. Is she or he somebody who serves? You want to date a servant who's going to be willing, out of that, to be a servant lover to you and a servant to your children, a servant to your home.
The second thing we see from this story is that real love serves. Do they serve their roommates? Do they serve their coworkers? Do they serve their family? How are they serving in their church? Serving is like a muscle, and if they're not flexing that right now, it's not going to be stronger or present whenever you get married. You need to look for someone, if you want to experience real love with that someone… Real love will always be involved with someone who serves and who seeks to serve one another.
How do I know they're going to be a servant? I see them doing nice things today. How do I know they're going to be a servant? This is so huge. Ultimately, at the end of the day, the only way you can hope to be sure that they're going to be someone who serves you day after day after day is that they have a connection to Christ. Let me be clear. I'm not saying they claim to be a Christian. I'm not saying they go to church sometimes. I'm not saying they read some devotionals they forward on to you that really meant something to them.
I mean they have a deep connection with Jesus. The stronger that connection, the stronger degree that they will be a servant. The greater their connection to Jesus, the greater servant they will be. It's not dissimilar to this. It's like Wi-Fi. Inside of my house, there are different areas where I will be walking through the house and I'll lose signal or lose connection with Wi-Fi so I have no service. The only way I can get service again is I have to move closer in the direction of the router.
Sometimes there's a brick wall or something that's interfering with it, and I need to move closer in the direction of the router, because if there is no connection I will have no service. If someone has no connection to Jesus, they will not be a servant. If you have no connection you will have no servant, and the stronger the connection, the stronger servant they will be. This is why you going into a dating relationship or going into marriage and being like, "Hey, we're going to get there, and God is really important to me, but I think she'll get there" or "God is really important to me, but I think he'll get there" is a really bad thing.
You have no idea what type of servant you're stepping into. You have no idea if real love is going to mark your relationship. The reality you're headed toward may not be the romantic one you want. The weaker the level of their connection to Jesus, the weaker the level of a servant they will be, and the stronger it is the greater degree to which they will be a servant. In this time, if you want to experience real love, as you're looking, as you're dating, you need to be evaluating… Like I said, it is an interview.
"Is this person a servant? Are they going to be a servant mom? Are they going to be a servant father? Or am I just kind of blinded because they're really hot and I'm hoping they will be?" The degree to which their connection to Jesus exists is the degree to which you can know whether or not they will be a servant to God. In Ephesians 5:21 it says we are commanded… Why is the connection thing so relevant? Because Jesus says, "If you are going to be married, I'm commanding you to serve one another."
If someone doesn't have a strong connection to Christ, they're not going to have that strong ringing in their ears of "This is what my God commands and calls me to every single day: to lay down my life to serve the person I'm married to." Someone sent me this this week as it relates to when you're waiting, to not give up on your standards, to not give up on your patience. I will read it at risk, just because it's too funny. If this is offensive, this may not be the place for you.
It says this: "To all the girls who are in a hurry to have a boyfriend or get married, a little biblical piece of advice: Ruth patiently waited for her mate Boaz. While you're waiting on your Boaz, don't settle for any of his relatives: Broke-az, Po-az, Lyin-az, Cheating-az, Dumb-az, Drunk-az, Cheap-az, Lockedup-az, Goodfornothing-az, and Lazy-az. Wait for your Boaz." I wish I could take credit for that. I cannot.
Do not lower your standards. Trust God, and in doing so he will lengthen your patience. Don't lower the standards you have. Don't settle. Say, "I'm going to trust God." In doing so, God lengthens your patience. "I'm going to trust God's way. I'm going to trust who God says to look for in a spouse, and I'm not going to lower my standards."
The third quality real love always involves is that real love sacrifices. Boaz sacrificed money, time, his inheritance, his future, at significant cost to him. He did it ultimately out of a clear love or devotion to this woman, but it came at a clear cost. He had to buy the field. He had to say, "I'm going to care for both of you for the rest of your life." He had to decide, "I'm going to have half-Jewish babies," which was a big deal inside of that time.
In other words, she was a foreign woman. He said, "I'm going to allow my inheritance, my land, my grandfather's inheritance… Everything my family has had is going to go to children who are not clearly Jewish." At significant cost to himself, he said, "I'm going to sacrifice those things," because real love always sacrifices. Marriage is ultimately always about sacrificing selfish desires for one another.
Ephesians 5:25 says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave up his life for her," or "laid down his life for her" your translation may have. Ultimately, this is what marriage is, constantly: deciding, "I'm going to sacrifice my own desires in this moment to put the desires, the needs, the wants of the other person in front of me."
This goes way beyond, "I'll be committed to you, and I will be a nice guy." Real love goes way beyond, "Hey, I'm going to get us a house, and I'll bring home enough for us to eat every day." Real love involves sacrifice, and sacrifice goes way beyond those things. It involves, "I'm going to die to the things I want to do to care for you." On both sides, this is what God calls and commands in marriage. This is what is to take place.
Here's where single people get stuck, I think. You end up sitting there, and you're like, "Oh man. You guys have to die to yourself. That's probably because y'all picked wrong. Not us, honey. We're going to be awesome. We're going to like all of the same things. We don't have to sacrifice and give up our hobbies. We're going to go rock climbing together, and it's going to be great." I hate to burst your bubble. No, you're not. You're going to be married to someone who has different wants than you, different things they want to do.
In other words, if you choose to marry someone who is not willing to sacrifice, what are they going to forfeit? They're not going to forfeit the things they want to do, so what are they going to do? Maybe they have kids. They're a mom who comes home and is like, "We're going to put the kids in day care, and they will be there, because I'm not giving up the fact that I want to do spin class every single night of the week. This is my plan. I'm not giving it up. That's just what I want to do."
There are a lot of marriages out there like that that don't choose to sacrifice, and they don't experience the real love and intimacy God wants to take place in a marriage when you choose, "I'm going to die to myself and put these things aside for the sake of the relationship, for the sake of caring for this person, for the sake of expressing real love to you," because relationships cannot last and will not deepen without sacrifice, without the choosing to sacrifice for one another. You can't have a healthy relationship if you always choose self.
I see this as clear as any example… The best person in my house at this is my wife, who constantly is putting the needs… It's like she does this in neutral. She puts the needs of children, of her husband, of everyone else, constantly choosing sacrifice. Men, this is the type of person you want to look for, who's willing to sacrifice, who's saying, "I'm going to put my own desires aside. I may not get to be involved in all of the different hobbies and things I want to do, because I am choosing to care for the relationships God has here."
If you marry someone who is not selfless but selfish, you are headed for heartbreak, because any relationship that's going to grow, that's going to be healthy is going to involve choosing constantly to sacrifice. Here's what's interesting. If somebody sacrifices for the sake of a relationship, it costs them something in the short term, but if you choose to be someone who says, "I'm going to do what I want whenever I want, and I don't care what she says or what he says or what anybody says. This is who God made me. This is who I'm going to be, and if you love me you would just let me do that…"
If you choose to say, "I'm not ever going to sacrifice," though you may not miss out on the short term, you miss out on everything in the long term. In other words, if you choose to be someone who sacrifices, who says, "You know what? I'm not going to do that" or "I am going to decide that we're going to spend money this way," or "Tonight, you know what? She's not in the mood. It's time for a back rub…"
If you decide in that moment, "I'm going to miss out. I'm not going to throw a fit" or "This is what I'm going to do," you may miss out in the moment, but if you choose constantly to be selfish over and over, you miss out not on something short term; you miss out on everything long term. The relationship will not last or at least will not be healthy.
Think about in the story. There's such a perfect example of someone who chose… Because of selfishness, they missed out on something that is more significant than they could have ever even comprehended. The other family member. Do you remember him in the story? Think about what this guy turned down. Boaz shows up and says, "Hey, actually, first right. You could marry her. Do you want to marry her? It's your call if you want to buy the field."
The guy inside of the story says, "Nah, it's too expensive. I'm a little too worried. It's too risky for me. I don't think so. That's not for me." He decided in the short term, "It's not really what I want to do. I want to serve myself. That's what I'm more focused on," and in doing so, think about what he missed out on. He could have been the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Jesus, and he said, "Nah. I'm okay. That's not really what I want. I'm going to turn down this girl, because she doesn't really fit the things I want."
He forfeited the story God could have had for him. When they do the family reunion in heaven of the line of Jesus, he will not be a part of it. Think about that. Because he said, "I'm unwilling to sacrifice. I'm unwilling to move in the direction of what God may have for me, because it doesn't exactly work the way I want." Let me just preach a little bit here.
Men, there are a lot of you who are looking at a Ruth who's right in front of you, and because you are too selfish, candidly, too immature, you're unwilling to say, "I think this may be a godly woman I should consider moving forward in a relationship with. I should take that next step." You're too selfish. You want your time. You want to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and you're being a little boy. You're going to miss out on what God has for you.
You are forfeiting, and if you continue to live that way, you will forfeit experiencing the real love, the real marriage, the romantic reality you want because of selfishness, or that you in your heart of hearts would want if selfishness was not blinding your ability to see it. That goes, honestly, for both sides in the room. Ultimately, real love will always involve sacrifice, and not doing it God's way will cost you more in the long run.
In conclusion, real love stays, it serves, and it sacrifices. Real love always stays, it serves, and it sacrifices, every time real love is present. If you're in a relationship, you can know, "Is real love going to be a part of this relationship going forward?" Not the emotion of love; the action and expression of love that the Bible teaches. Are they someone who's going to stay? Am I someone who's committed to staying? Am I someone who's committed to serving? Are they? And am I someone who's committed to sacrificing?
Ultimately, the truest picture of real love that you'll never know and you'll never be able to identify if you don't first know the truest expression of real love was displayed by God sending his Son on a cross to die for you and me. My son came home this past week, and he was talking about kids at school. I have a 3-year-old son. He came home one day. He was sad because some of the other kids in his class decided to not include him, wouldn't let him play with them.
As a dad in that moment, it's like, "Who are their names? Like, specifically, which ones are they?" Truly. You begin to be like, "Huh. Okay. I'm calling their mom, and I am going to wrap their house tonight and throw eggs at their windows, because I don't think I can do anything to a 3-year-old." All of a sudden, all of these different emotions begin to run through you, because there's nothing in the world I love more than my son or my daughter or my wife.
Candidly, the love of a parent for a child becomes insanity. When he comes home from school and they're like, "You know, he's not really that great at puzzles," it's like, "Who the heck do puzzles think they are? Oh, he'll show you, puzzles!" You feel something in your heart. It's hard to even explain the length to which you would go. The truth is there is not a dad on the planet, including this one, who loves their son more than God loves you.
How do I know that? Because the baby boy who would be born a thousand years later, much like this story, a little boy born in Bethlehem… A thousand years later, a little boy would be born in Bethlehem who would be born not to come into the world to take over through military strength but to take over by giving his life and dying in your place.
God would say, "How much do I love you? The human race that has run from me, that has rebelled from me… How much do I care about you? I'll give even the life of my eternal Son so no one would ever have to walk not in relationship with me." That's how much the heart of God aches to be in relationship with you. There's no parent on the planet who loves their child more than God loves you.
Ultimately, if you're going to know real love, you're going to see it in the face of Jesus or see it in the person of Jesus, who this story all points to. It's all about Jesus. It's on every page. Ultimately, it has all been a foreshadowing of Jesus. Scholars have long pointed out that Jesus ultimately is who all of the different foreshadowing is about. This was included because of him. It was meant to point to him. Jesus in Luke, chapter 22, even walking along this road with two disciples, says, "All of the Old Testament is about me. Every page…me. All of it. It has all been pointing to me."
How is the book of Ruth about Jesus? Where do we see that inside of it? Think about the different turns inside of the story. The lord of the harvest walks out, and he looks and sees an unworthy woman who did not deserve to have a relationship with him, and out of everyone he sees he says, "I choose them." Jesus is called the Lord of the harvest. He looks down at you and me, undeserving of relationship, and says, "I choose them."
The climax of the story would be a little boy being born in Bethlehem. The beginning of the story of Jesus, a little boy being born in Bethlehem. Just like Boaz is a redeemer, a person who not only was willing but was able to say, "I will come in and purchase back to redeem what has been broken, what has fallen apart, what is not able to be saved by anyone else," Jesus comes into our world and says, "I will choose to pay back for all of the sins humanity has committed against me. I will redeem." He is called the Redeemer.
All of it's pointing to him. It has always been pointing to him. Real love, if you're going to experience it… You will not ever have it unless you know him. On every page, the God of the universe, even in the fact that you're inside of this room right now, if you don't have a relationship with him, is him screaming trying to get your attention. "I love you!" If you're listening online or you're watching from wherever you are, he's saying to you…
You're in some building in Arkansas or in Pennsylvania or in Austin, in Phoenix, and all of these different gatherings, and you're here in Dallas, Texas. What do you think God is doing if he's not chasing you? Do you think it's just some random mistake that you're here? It's by no accident. The God who's there, just like every page is pointing to Jesus, is trying to use every stage of your life to point you to him.
A God who no matter what you walk through… Despite the fact that Ruth lost her husband and experienced incredible pain, he had a purpose in that pain. Despite the fact that things didn't go exactly the way she wanted in her love life, God redeemed, he worked, and he brought about. Whatever your story, whatever you're walking through right now, let me be very clear. As messed up as you think you are, as far as like, "Man, that was pretty good, if you're like perfect, you grew up in Bible school. I could date like that too. That would be great…"
Wherever you have fallen short, God will meet you there. He wants to meet you there. There's no love story, there's no person story, there's no story in the room he cannot turn around, but you have to turn to him. When you do, you will discover he has been turning toward you since the moment you took your first breath, and he will be until the moment you take your last. Today he extends to you, "Will you accept my Son?" He's your Redeemer. He's who all of life is about, and he's the love you've been looking for and the expression of real love. You will never experience real love until you know that and you know him. Let me pray.
Father, thank you that you are a God who takes broken people and relationships, and out of ashes you bring forth beauty. I pray for anyone in the room right now who feels like they have fallen so far from where you would have them in terms of relating to another person in their dating relationship, in an engagement. Maybe they have a divorce in their past and they feel like such damaged goods; that you would meet them there, just like you met Ruth, who had to feel like, "I'm damaged goods."
For every guy in the room who feels like they've blown it too much, God, that you would meet them there and strengthen them, and that all of us would take that next step in your direction and turn toward you and discover you've been turning toward us for all of our lives. We love you, God. Thank you that you loved us first, and out of that overflow we love you back. We worship you in song now, amen.