Defining Love

We live in a culture where people claim very much to adhere to the concept of love. Love is still the number one subject of popular songs. People still watch movies and TV shows that are love stories. 

Despite all the professed “love for love” that is in the world, we have a great lack of understanding for what love actually is. Think about all the ways that love is cheapened by the way people speak about it.

“I feel nothing but love for everybody.”

“I have love for (fill in the blank of person you have never met and will never meet and will never have any meaningful impact on their lives whatsoever).”

“They fell in love.”

“They fell out of love.”

“Love yourself first.”

“Love is love.”

I’m not saying that all of these sentiments are bad in every context in which they are used. But we also must realize that if everything is “love” then nothing is love. We need a strong knowledge of the Scriptures so that we can have a concrete definition of what love is. Only when we know what love is can we begin to know whether or not we possess it.

The book of Ruth is a short story in the writings section of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Taken on its face, this is a very well-written and compelling love story about how two people found romance and an entire family was redeemed as a result.

But there is added element to this love story about a family when you realize which family this story is about. All the way back in Genesis 49, Jacob gathered his twelve sons around him to receive a blessing at the very end of his life. The blessing Jacob gives to the fourth son, Judah, becomes one of the definitive storylines of the entire Bible.

Genesis 49:1:8-12

The story of Ruth is ultimately a story of how God loves the world. We will see much more of that in Ruth Chapter 4. But we need to remember all the while that love originates with God, therefore we must learn to love from him. The way that he loves goes much deeper that nice thoughts. His love is characterized by covenants, plans, and actions. We begin to see these elements of love in the story of Ruth and Naomi.

Ruth 1

Discussion Questions

  • Why is Naomi bitter?
  • How have circumstances shaped Naomi’s inner life and identity?
  • Have you ever felt like you were a victim of circumstances?
  • How do you think it is possible to love as Naomi loved her daughters-in-law even when you have reason to be bitter?
  • Why is Naomi’s relationship with Ruth also tied to both of their relationships with God?
  • What is Ruth committing to Naomi?
  • What has Naomi committed to Ruth?
  • How has our culture lost the connection between love and actual commitment?
  • In what ways are you demonstrating love through commitment?
  • How can we show greater love to fellow believers at church by committing to one another?