In the last newsletter I started recounting some of the things we heard at the evangelism workshop led by Dr. George Hunter. Here are some more things we can learn from the story of Ruthâ€™s conversion to the true God.
When we claim to be followers of Jesus, people look at us to see if weâ€™re credible. They ask of us â€“ as Ruth likely asked of Naomi: 1. Do we really believe what we say? 2. Do we live by it? 3. Does it make a difference? Since being in business of attracting people to Jesus and helping them become devoted to him does not presuppose our own perfection â€“ if it did, weâ€™d never get started â€“ we must constantly ask ourselves these questions.
Ruth also found people â€“ namely Naomi and family â€“ who wanted to understand her, valued her, and loved her. She could then judge that if the people of Yahweh (the OT name of God) were like that, God might be like that also. God usually works through people. Thus people judge God on the basis of what they see in us. If we want to influence people toward Jesus, we must put on the character of Jesus so we faithfully represent him.
In the context of loving relationships, Ruth acquired knowledge. Remember she lived more than 2500 years before Johann Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press. She was likely illiterate. Yet through her relationships â€“ and conversations â€“ with Naomi and family, she was able to learn the basics of the faith: the Shema (Deut. 6:5-6), Abraham, the Exodus, etc. In the same way, as we internalize the basics of the faith â€“ who Jesus is, what heâ€™s done for us, etc., we can then share those stories and realities with others.
Even though Naomi didnâ€™t have the Great Commission (â€œGo and make disciples of all nationsâ€ â€“ Mat. 28:19-20), she likely knew the Hebrew tradition well enough to know Godâ€™s intention was not only to bless Israel, but also to make them a blessing to all nations. In her relationship with Ruth, she knew that she didnâ€™t have to do it all, but could depend on the community. Like Ruth, it will often be the case in our ministry that people belong before they believe. For many it will only be through the life of Jesus experienced in community that they come to faith and become Jesusâ€™ follower.
So true! I was thinking the other day about the different ways to tell my own story of coming into a relationship with God. For years I would have told it beginning with the “decision event.” More honestly, though, I would now tell it beginning with being accepted into the youth group at Faith UMC and finding a place I belonged.