We live in a culture that doesn’t put much value in fidelity, whether it be fidelity to marriage partners or to other relationships that make up our communal life. These days there is so much transience. People frequently change the community they live in, the jobs they work at, and generally speaking, the ultimate criteria is: where can they make the most money, or live in the biggest house? The relationships of the present are viewed as disposable in order to attain the bigger and better.
In the old days major league baseball teams would have players on their roster for their entire playing career, and there was fidelity between players and players, and fans and players. Now the New York Yankees provide the model for teams to aspire to: overhaul the roster every year with the best players out there that money can buy. The Ma and Pa grocery is disappearing because they can’t sell their groceries at a price that competes with the big grocery chains. Ma and Pa’s fidelity to one another, to their customers, to their community doesn’t matter any more. In the end, all we will have are Wall Marts.
The same trend is at work in churches. People go church shopping, and what are they looking for? The church that will offer them with the best assortment of services. The small community church can’t compete with the mega-church, which is all we will eventually have if this trend keeps up.
It was the story of Ruth in the Bible that got me thinking about fidelity this past week. At a certain point in the story, Ruth has the opportunity to close out her relationship with her widowed mother-in-law Naomi. Both Naomi’s husband and Ruth’s husband have died, and Naomi’s headed back to her homeland, and the sensible thing for Ruth to do is say farewell and get down to business of finding herself another husband.
But instead, Ruth practices fidelity. Naomi is the only family she has left, and Ruth commits herself to being there for her old mother-in-law, even though the commitment will probably mean living in poverty in an alien community. For Ruth, Naomi is irreplaceable.
There is a world of difference between living among people who view you as irreplaceable and living among people who will trade you in for the next, best model that comes off the assembly line. Sometimes people don’t recognize the difference until its too late.
Dear God, thank you for keeping the faith with us. Help us to keep the faith with one another. In Jesus’ name. Amen.