Rev. Andrew Baskin
The word commitment frightens and scares us because it denotes obligation, duty, and responsibility. We pray, “Lord, give my life purpose.” And the Lord says, “Follow Me and do my will.” And we say, “I THINK I CAN HANDLE THINGS ON MY OWN, BUT THANKS.” Commitment is all too often the stumbling block to all the greatness God had planned to squeeze out of us.
The history of missions is full of examples of Christian commitment. These individuals include Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other members of the SCLC during the Civil Rights movement. Rev. King was an imperfect broken vessel like any other human being. However, let’s not forgot the times he marched, preached and turned the other cheek for the freedom of African Americans. Let’s not forget Rev. Williams J. Simmons for whom Simmons College of Kentucky is named. He was the president of the American National Baptist Convention, the forerunner of the National Baptist Convention, USA. In addition, in 1882, he was elected editor of the American Baptist newspaper that came into existence in 1879. How has the American Baptist News (the digital successor of the American Baptist newspaper) continued to publish since 1879? The answer is one word: Commitment.
The committed saints who pledge their undying support of this ministry are the backbone of all the work that we accomplish for Christ. While some ‘Christians” are just seasonal players, the committed saints are those who chair meetings, pay weekly tithes, pray daily prayers, attend weekly study groups, show up every Sunday for worship, share their testimony of Christ’s goodness in their neighborhoods, and read and write sermons and articles for the American Baptist News. Commitment is what makes the difference.
The story of Ruth is a story of great commitment. Ruth's decision is one of the most memorable, powerful confessions of faith in all of scripture. Ruth made a magnificent confession of total commitment that led to her own conversion and redemption. In her plea to her mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth demonstrated a deep, undying sense of devotion. She loved Naomi and clung to her. Even when Naomi continued to insist that Ruth return to her people and her gods, Ruth refused to listen to her mother-in-law and made the memorable declaration that is our text. It’s an amazing, sincere declaration of commitment.
We don’t know exactly when Ruth actually converted from idol worship. But we do know that Ruth came to trust in the Lord and to take "refuge under His wings" by the time she met Boaz, her husband. Whatever the case may be, Ruth’s declaration is a clear picture of total and complete commitment which is a pledge. And Ruth made three strong pledges to Naomi.
First, Ruth made a commitment to family. In Ruth’s day, women were nothing more than chattel or possessions. If a woman’s husband died, she became the possession of his brother, and he would provide for her. In the case of Ruth, all of her husband’s brothers died, and she and Naomi were both left with no one to care for them. They were widows doomed to die without a roof over their heads or any means of support. The law allowed Ruth to go home to her people, for the sake of survival. But Ruth chose to stay and find a way to care for Naomi. She could not leave Naomi alone.
Second, Ruth made a commitment to God and God’s people. Ruth came from a background of idolatry in her native country. The idea of monotheism, or ONE GOD, was foreign to her. However, she learned all about this God who sits high but looks low, who lives in heaven, but cares about what goes on in the earth. And Ruth made up her mind that this God and His people were worth her commitment to them.
We serve that same God. We’re willing to commit to a God who sustains us. But what about our commitment to each other? If God is God, then we are HIS PEOPLE. And if we are HIS PEOPLE, then we are also connected or ‘related’ to each other! We are family! And if we are related to each other, there is no circumstance that should separate us. There is no quarrel that can split us. We are FAMILY.
Third, Ruth declared that her commitment was unto death. Her commitment to God and Naomi was unshakeable, inseparable; it was a permanent bond between Ruth, Naomi, her God, and God’s people unto death. Those who are, or have been married are familiar with those words because the marriage vow ends with “till death do us part.” Quite frequently, we add an addendum to our marriage vows, one that goes beyond the “death clause,” it is the “unless clause.”
The same is true of our commitment to Christ. As long as we’re getting something out of church, the relationship continues. But get to the place where God requires you to put something IN to His church, to give a sacrificial offering of time, money or self, then the crowd thins. It’s not that we don’t understand commitment. It’s just that we choose what we are committed. We’re committed to looking good, smelling good, and feeling good.
But God needs us to put HIM above self. He wants us to direct our energies toward sharing Our Christ and growing His kingdom. He wants us to make a commitment to permanently bond ourselves to Him and to pledge our undying support of His church. And it’s reciprocal. When we GIVE, we GET. God gives to those who commit “unto death’. And our reward is long lasting and eternal. If we stay committed to Christ UNTO DEATH. And nothing, NOTHING, will ever be devastating, aggravating, frustrating, exasperating, insinuating, violating, or separating ever again!