February 27, 2022
• Rev. Dr. Jevon Caldwell-Gross
Today we conclude our series on indispensable relationships. It’s our hope that this has started some good conversations in your household. Nicole and I were out one day talking and just asked each other what role we played in each other’s lives. I was shocked when she gave her answer because I just knew she was going to say I was her everything, but that wasn’t what she said. And I think my answer was a bit surprising to her. But here’s what’s unfair, no one person can fulfill all of your relational needs. (Slide) It’s impossible. It’s unfair to ourselves, it’s unfair to the people around us. It’s a recipe for failure. So God is gracious enough to send us different people to play different roles in our in our lives. These roles are the indispensable relationships that we can not do without.
We end this discussion today talking about the person that’s your ride or die. And their is no better relationship that highlights this than Ruth and Naomi.
Let’s back-up a bit to give this some context. There was a famine in Bethlehem and Naomi, her husband and two sons have moved to the land of Moab. After some time Naomi's husband dies and she was left with her two sons. The two sons eventually married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. But eventually her two sons die as well.
Our story opens with three widows living in the land of Moab. Now they are left alone with little or no hope for the future. No woman wanted to be a widow in this culture. Often it meant few resources. No. Job. No home. No future. Widows had a difficult life.
So at some point, Naomi hears that the famine has ended in Bethlehem and wants to return to her own community. As they begin their journey, Naomi encourages both of these women to return home to their families in Moab. She prays that God would bless them, but her intent is to send them away.
She gives them permission to go and live their lives. They are still young enough to get re-married. They have the rest of their lives ahead of them. They deserve a second change. The dating scene will be difficult, but it wouldn't be impossible. She knows how hard it will be for her and doesn’t want these other women to experience her grief and always experience life as widow. She loves them enough to let them go!
And the two women have very different responses. One of the daughters in law, Orpah, makes the decision to stay in Moab. So many times she gets a really bad wrap. Initially she says she’s not going to leave Naomi, but something happens in her thinking, and she decides to stay in Moab. Maye she missed her family. Maybe the wanted children of her own. Who knows....
Orpah describes most of the relationships that we will have in our lives. They don’t last forever. God places people into our lives for particular reasons and for certain seasons. Sooner or later, we move on. They move on. It’s the difficult truth about relationships. Most of them that we have in our lives will come to end. Sometimes we grow out of them. We move away from them. We change. They change. Let me prove it. What do all of things have in common
• The Beatles
• Destiny’s Child
• Guns and Roses
• New Edition
• Dru Hill
• The Jackson
• Led Zeplin
• The Temptations
What do they all have in common! They all went their separate ways. It happens. Every relationship doesn’t have the same shelf life. (Slide) Some were meant for your childhood. Some were meant for college years. Some were great when u didn’t have a lot of responsibilities. But they each had a shelf life. Doesn’t mean that they were not necessary. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t meaningful. It just means that it’s run it’s course. Even good relationships have an expiration date. Orpah says I’d rather stay here in Moab. You need those. And that’s ok!
But every once in while you meet someone like Ruth. People like Ruth don’t come around often. You only get a few people in your life to treat you like Ruth treats Naomi. Naomi has made a compelling case why they should return home, but Ruth says, Nope, I’m not leaving. If you are going to Bethlehem, I’m going to Bethlehem. Your God will my God. You people will be my people! Case closed! No more discussion. Let’s go! When we going!
Naomi represents one of the most important relationship we will ever have and that is “your ride or die”. Person or group of people that makes a conscious decision to stick by your side regardless of how you go or how low you get. (slide) They are with you no matter what. Their commitment doesn’t waver. They are aware of how hard your journey can and will be but they stick by you anyway. It’s grace made real.
The presence of the ride or die is not defined by your production. (slide) Their relationship with you is not transactional. It’s not defined by what they can get or what you can give.
Naomi is honest about her condition in life. Essentially she has nothing to offer Naomi. She can’t promise a home. She can’t promise a future. She doesn’t have any more sons. Her prospects moving back are not that great. Naomi can’t produce anything. She will be returning as a widow who has passed her prime.
Most of the people in your want something from you! It’s true. We are used to giving people our time, our gifts, our resources , our connections, our ideas, our bodies, our advice, our wisdom, our perspective, our voice, but the Ride or Die just wants you. We aren’t used to that. Not just the successful you. Not the magazine cover you. Not the you that has it all together. Even the you when you don’t have anything to offer. The you at your lowest. The divorced you. The you that can’t produce anything. The ride or die is a counter cultural relationship.
They are bought into you. To them your vulnerability is not a weakness. You don’t have to hide it. Most of us never give Ruth a chance to know the real us because at keep hiding behind what we can produce. Why? Because its easier to give people our accomplishments rather than authenticity. And yetRuth expresses this level of commitment at the lowest point in Naomi’s life. So many people go to great lengths to hide this aspect of themselves. But your ride or die can handle your success and your failures. They can handle your grief. They don’t want your resume, they want real you. They could care less how well you sing, dance, or count numbers. They are completely sold out for you.
This is the image that comes to mind. (slide) Do you know who that is? The other guy. His name was Drew Bundini Brown. Some say that he was one of the most influential people in the career of Muhamad Ali. He was a cornerman to Muhamad Ali. He also had a gift at poetry. He was the one that coined his infamous responses, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a Bee, Rumble Young Man Rumble. “He was with Ali for 44 fights. Ali didn’t win all them. But that’s the role of the cornermen. It's to stay there whether you win, lose of draw. I'm not saying their relationship was perfect. But what I am saying is that everyone needs somebody in their corner regardless of whether you win lose or draw.
Who’s in your corner? Who are the people. Whether you win or lose? Whether the marriage works out or not. Whether the cancer comes back or it’s in remission. Not because of your record. Not because of. Simple because of you.
With the ride or Die relationship Your journey becomes their journey. (Slide)
These are people who willing insert themselves into your journey. The relationship moves from you to we. When you are sad, “we are said.” It’s not “you” will get through this, it’s “we” will get through this. You are not having a baby, we are having a baby. You didn’t get laid off, “we” got laid off. “We” found happiness. We. We. Your God will be my God. Your people will be my people. This is our God. This is our people. That’s why this person gets protective when it comes to you. Because it just didn’t happen to you it happened to them.
I said at the start of the series that we are created in the image of a triune God. And if we are created in a God that that uses plural language to describe Gods self.. we manifest more fully the expression of our deity when we move from “I” to “we”.
Reminds of Oprah and Gayle (picture). Their frienship and relationship over the years have been in articles, interivews, its been everywhere. Why? Because its rare. They’ve known each other for 45 years and met as journalist when they both making around 20 thousand dollars. But they’ve done life together. They’ve journey together. They have watched each other climb to the highest level in their fields. They’ve journeyed through marriages, divorces, kids, relationships, boy image, you name it......Oprah said this about their friendship, “Whatever friendship this is, its been a very fun ride – and weve taken it together.
You see Naomi’s life was a journey. She’s journeyed though the single life, the married life and life as a widow. She’s journeyed trough famines. She journeyed through life before kids and then having grown kids. She journeyed from Bethlehem, to Moab and now back Bethlehem. She’s knows what it’s like to celebrate and she’s knows what’s it like to grieve.
Deep down our greatest fear is that we have to journey “alone”. No one is going through this but me. Our fear is that we are alone on this journey. That’s why God would often remind people. That’s why one of the most common responses and promises by God was to assure people, “I will be with you.” Moses was afraid to stand before the most powerful person in that era and God remind him, “Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”
God had to remind Joshua, “As I was with Moses so I shall be with you.” Before they went into battle to claim their promised land the Lord just sent a Reminder, I will be with you. Before the built temples. When they were in exile. Before they were sent out to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, Guess what God promised, I will be with you. Until the end of the age I am with you.
Here me clearly. The glimpse of God presence is not invisible. God often chides to be present through people. So that you can see it. You can feel it. Because most of what God will do in your life God will do it through people. Through relationships! Provision. Healing. Miracles. Support. Blessing.
Here’s the difficult part about relationship. Everyone wants a Ruth. We want people to journey with us. Everyone wants a ride or die friend. Ruth says to Naomi, “I will follow you whenever you go. Stay I’ll stay. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.” Do u hear the movement?
Let me put it this way. Pay attention next time you go on the highway. Pay attention to how traffic moves. Watch how the cars move. Watch how they switch lanes. Watch how they maneuver around certain cars. You will notice that they don’t all move at the same pace. You will notice that rarely do people intentionally get behind really slow moving cars. Especially if traffic jam. No one gets behind a car that’s not moving.
Heres a challenging question, “Is our live moving in a direction that makes people want to follow. Being a ride or die is not a commitment to being stagnant. It was fueled by an idividual that lost everything, but was still on the move.
In order to attract a Ruth, we have to be Naomi. So here’s the question. As a friend are you worth following? What do your friends get when they follow you? (Slide) Does it add to their lives? Does it enhance their connection with God? Is it draining or filling. Ruth clings to Naomi because of who Naomi was. She is bitter, everyone male in her life has died. She doesn’t have anything to offer, but musters enough strength to these two women I want you to be blessed. I want you to have what I can’t.
I’m not sure what kind of mother in law she was but I don’t imagine her to be the crazy kind! I’m not saying every mother in law is extreme I’m just it’s not uncommon. And I don’t know how things were back then but Mothers in Laws don’t always have a great reputation! We don’t details of their relationship, but we get a glimpse. I think it’s a result how Naomi treated them in Moab. I don’t know what kind of mother in law she was, but im lead to believe that the seeds she planted all the year are starting to blossom. She nurtures it and God honors it. One of best investments you can ever make is in people.
Can I prove it to you....
Ruth follows Naomi. When they get to Bethlehem, Ruth ends up marrying a man named Boaz. Their family ends up in the genealogy of Jesus. “Boaz, the Father of Oded, who mother was Ruth, Obed the Father of Jesse, and Jess the father of King David.” Slide Not bad for an outsider. Not bad for an immigrant from the land of Boaz. God blesses us when we are a blessing to others. You can make it without a lot things, but you can’t make it without those inspisible relationships. You need ride or die people in your life. Whatever God wants to do in your life you’ll need “people.” It’s notj ust how we treat our homes. It’s not we treat our finances. It’s not how we treat the stuff. Whatever God wants to do in your life, sooner or later it will come down to how we treat our relationships. So treat them well. You never know who or what is on the other side.