Friday, July 9, 2021

'Til the End of the Line!

In the first Captain America film, Bucky Barnes accompanies Steve Rogers home after his mother’s funeral, and even though Steve swears he can get by on his own, Bucky tells him, “The thing is, you don’t have to. I’m with you ‘til the end of the line, pal.”  These kind words reminded Steve that no matter what happens Bucky would be there for him. Fast forward seventy years. When Captain America learns that HYDRA brainwashed and genetically modified Bucky into a killing machine known as the Winter Soldier, Steve tries to get through to Bucky by reminding him of their friendship. “I’m not going to fight you,” Cap says while throwing down his shield. “You’re my friend… I’m with you to the end of the line.”  This one heartfelt line sums up the unwavering loyalty between Cap and Bucky.

If anyone understands that level of loyalty, it’s Ruth.

In the first chapter of Ruth’s self-titled book of the Bible, we learn that a severe famine swept across the land. So, a man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons left their home town of Bethlehem and settled in the country of Moab. The two boys eventually grew up and married two Moabite women—Orpah and Ruth. Within a short span of time, however, all the men in the family died. With no husband or sons, Naomi was in danger of going hungry or homeless. So, she decides to move back home to Bethlehem where her countrymen could take care of her. At first, both Ruth and Orpah offer to accompany Naomi on her journey. But on the way, Naomi has second thoughts. She turns to the girls and tells them, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage” (Ruth 1:8-9 NLT). Then she kisses each of them goodbye, and they all start sobbing.

The girls protest, but Naomi argues that they’d have no future with her. They’d just be three old spinsters living in a shack together. They’d never make ends meet. She tells them that they’d be better off returning home, meeting another man, getting married again and moving on with their lives. Then, the Bible says they all starting crying again!

Finally, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye and headed home. But not Ruth. The Bible says Ruth “clung tightly to Naomi.” This brave young woman saw Naomi’s heartache and the hardship ahead of her, and made one of the most beautiful pledges in the Bible: “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” (Ruth 1:16-17 NLT).

These are among the most touching, heartfelt words ever recorded. Ruth and Naomi came from different cultures, backgrounds, and generations. As mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, they probably had as many opportunities for tension as they did for tenderness. But no matter what, Ruth refused to turn her back on Naomi. Ruth promised to be with Naomi ‘til the end of the line.

Ruth not only pledged her loyalty to Naomi, but also to Naomi’s God. In fact, their mutual faith in the Lord bound them together more than anything else. Ruth’s unwavering loyalty speaks volumes about her character.

Loyalty is an often overlooked and underrated virtue. A loyal person keeps their vows, honors their commitments, and is consistent and reliable in season and out of season—that is, when it’s convenient and when it’s not. A loyal person will be there for you ‘til the end of the line. That’s the kind of person Ruth was. Ruth pledged her loyalty both to Naomi and to the Lord, and she followed through on that pledge. We could all stand to be a little more like Cap, Bucky, and Ruth.

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