Years ago a former student of mine made a big mistake. He was arrested for drinking and driving. While that’s a problem, it was complicated by the fact that he was now in college attempting to get a degree in pastoral ministries. By the time I received the phone call with his confession, you could hear the defeat in his voice and wondered if he was now disqualified from ever being a minister. After talking with him for a short time I assured him that he was going to hell for what he did. Just kidding! I felt horrible for his poor decision and the consequences that were sure to follow. He was seriously concerned about what his future would be like now that he had messed up. I reassured him that I’d help him walk through this process.
The grace he received was free to him, but it cost me something. It cost me gas since I had to pick him up after he lost his drivers license. It cost my family extra time as a result of driving his behind everywhere. It cost me a meal here and there since he didn’t have a job for a while. It cost me hours of my time talking, praying and listening to him. It cost me a load of extra work because I had to train him to do things that I already knew how to do. It cost me extra money from our student budget so that he could go to and participate in conferences/camps. It cost me a parent’s trust since I was willing to work with someone who had messed up in a manner that was not acceptable to them. But… IT WAS WORTH IT. Grace always costs us something, but his life was worth it. Others could have viewed the situation as worthless, but grace views people as always being worth it.
His story reminds me of another example of grace. In the bible, there is a book dedicated to telling the story of a woman named Ruth and her family’s legacy. The story reveals an amazing portrait of grace. Ruth was a Moabite who just so happened to be hated by the Jews. The reason was because when the Israelites were being set free from Egypt the Moabites refused to help the Israelites. Pretty sad considering that they were actually distant family members. The Moabites were descendants of Moab who just happened to be the son of Lot. If you recall, Lot was the nephew of Abraham. For a group of distant family members to refuse to help you was a real slap in the face. In fact, God was so upset with the Moabites that he told Israel that they were not to intermarry with them for 10 generations. In a Jerry Springer type moment the Moabites and Israelites would go to war with each other. There were at times extreme racism towards each other that resulted in the countries going to war with each other.
Now, I’m not going to retell the entire story, but let’s skip ahead. By the time Naomi moves back to Israel she does so without her husband and two sons, who died while in the land of Moab. Instead she comes back with a daughter-in-law who refused to leave her side. This was pretty awkward considering the dislike Israel had for the Moabites. But Naomi finds a family redeemer to try to help the two of them and begins to play match-maker.
Our story picks up with Boaz receiving a shocking visitor in the middle of the night.
Ruth 3:7-9a. When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked.
And this is why some churches do not promote drinking. Boaz fills his stomach and takes a few drinks and then wakes up with a woman at his feet. All you single folks, don’t get any ideas from this. It’s probably not the best example to follow. Okay, joking aside, as you can imagine, waking up to a woman laying at your feet was a huge shock! Coming out of a deep sleep and not recognizing what’s happened, he asks the woman at his feet who she was…
Ruth 3:9. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”
• She introduces herself and asks for him to spread the corner of his garment over her because he was a redeemer in her deceased husband’s family. So Boaz begins to figure out how to redeem her. What’s interesting is that Boaz didn’t have to redeem her. She was a Moabite. He was released by God from redeeming her as a result of God’s removing the Moabites for 10 generations. The removal of the Moabites was directed to the men of Moab, but the hatred was so severe that many in Israel extended this separation from the entire Moabite people. Boaz approaches the family member who is actually closer in line to redeem her and asks if he wants to. The redeemer said no. Many scholars believe the first family member in line to redeem her didn’t want to redeem her simply because she was a Moabite. So he tells Boaz, you can be the redeemer since it could create all sorts of problems in my household.
Here’s where I want to challenge you. Why would one family member be willing to redeem her and another not? Why would one family member refuse grace while another offer grace? The answer is found in a simple look at a family genealogy.
Ruth 4:21. Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed,
Boaz was the son of Salmon. Salmon was a Jew who married another famous woman in the Bible. Boaz’s mother was Rahab the prostitute who protected Israel’s spies before they took Jericho. If you recall, Rahab was saved because she lowered a red garment from her window, which saved her and her family. Her family embraced the God of Israel and the customs. Salmon eventually married the prostitute Rahab and their child, Boaz was born into Israel. Boaz heard all the stories of grace given to his mother despite she should have been considered the enemy. Keep in mind that Israel didn’t have to include her family into their community. They only promised to not kill them. But they made an invitation for her and her family to join their community.
Many years later Boaz has an opportunity to once again rescue someone with a garment that was symbolic of the one that saved his own family. He embraced a woman who many in Israel wouldn’t have even given the time of day. He gave an invitation to join his broken family and as a result, the greatest Grace giver was born through his descendants. What others saw as worthless Boaz saw as being worth it. What others saw as being an expense, Boaz saw as an investment. The expense involved with an invitation is always worth it.
Relaunching a church is hard work, but the greatest reward is watching our church embrace the cost it takes to giving grace to others. As of December 2015 we have given more money to offer grace to people in our community than we did my entire first year as Pastor at Oakdale. This church has embraced the cost behind grace and the result is some amazing fruit both in resources and in lives being changed. It’s my prayer that you’d not just enjoy the grace you receive but that you also pay the price to give grace to others!