3 Lessons on Friendship from Ruth & Naomi

When I think of friendship, my mind immediately goes to the story of Ruth and Naomi. If you haven’t read the whole Book of Ruth, I highly recommend it! The short version goes something like this: Ruth marries Naomi’s son, he dies, Naomi tells Ruth to go back to her people, Ruth says she wants to stay with Naomi, they build a relationship stronger than just a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law bond, and they help each other overcome challenges and celebrate each other’s good fortune.

I think the most well-known verse is Ruth 1:16, especially the part that says “…Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge. Your people will be my people and your God, my God…”

Although this verse is more commonly known for its part in weddings, it embodies Christian friendship- especially friendship between women- in a wonderful way. There are three lessons that can be learned from Ruth and Naomi’s relationship that are reflected in this verse.


1. True friendship is self-giving.

“Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge.”

Ruth and Naomi’s friendship starts off with grief-stricken Naomi deciding to move back to her hometown of Bethlehem after the loss of her husband and two sons. She has no reason to stay in Moab, so she tells her daughter-in-laws to return to their people- the Moabites- to remarry and live good lives. One of her two daughter-in-laws goes, but the other (Ruth) tells Naomi that she will stay with her. Why does she do this?

Ruth is blessed with generosity and compassion. Even though she has no obligation to Naomi, her love for her mother-in-law and friend makes her fiercely loyal. Ruth makes an oath to stick by Naomi’s side no matter what. She then works to provide for the two of them when Naomi is unable to contribute. Ruth sacrifices her time and effort out of loving concern for Naomi.

What can we learn from this?

Friendship is supposed to be entering into a relationship not because of what we can get out of it but because of what it is in its own right. We are called to be examples of Christ’s love to the world, and we can’t do that if we are consumed by a “gimme” attitude in our friendships. When we break free of the selfishness that poisons so many of our relationships and focus on giving our time, effort, concern, and love to those around us, we portray a beautiful image of Christ’s own self-giving.

2. True friendship breaks boundaries of age, race, religion, etc.

“Your people shall be my people…”

Naomi was a Hebrew woman who had emigrated to Moab with her husband and two sons from her home in Bethlehem. Her husband died and she was left with her sons, who grew up and married Moabite women. Ruth was one of the Moabite women who married into Naomi’s family. She, too, became a widow when Naomi’s son died.

Other than both being widows, Naomi and Ruth had very little in common. These two women were of different ages, races, and religions. Yet, somehow, they built a strong and lasting friendship- and a friendship that went deeper than a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law bond. They were truly there for each other. How? They put their differences aside and supported each other in good times and bad.

What can we learn from this?

It’s no secret that our world is very divided right now. We, as a society, tend to “stick to our own”- which means that the boundaries of age, race, religion, etc. are very much still there. If we were all to follow the example of Ruth and Naomi when it comes to befriending those different than us, we could change the world overnight. Not only is embracing difference necessary to live together, but it also helps us build wholesome communities.

3. True friendship brings us- and our friends- closer to God.

“…and your God, my God.”

Even though Naomi is having a rough time and feels punished by God, Ruth still wants to adopt the faith and join Naomi on her journey. What does this tell us about Naomi? Well, she must have been a pretty awesome mother-in-law! In order for Ruth to want to accept God as her God, Naomi must have done a great job of showing God’s love to Ruth. She leads Ruth to the Lord, whether or not she intended to do so.

As for Ruth, she returns the favor of showing God’s love to her friend by supporting Naomi in the good times and the bad. Ruth’s capacity to love, which is a God-given ability, triumphs over Naomi’s inconsolable pain and grief and brings her joy once again!

What can we learn from this?

No matter where we are in life or where we stand with our faith, we have the opportunity to bring others (and ourselves) closer to God. Ruth and Naomi set a wonderful example to all women by having a shared love of God at the heart of their friendship. Even if they do not yet know God, we can share our relationship with Him with our friends!

Questions to ponder:

How will you be self-giving to your friends today?

What action can you take to break boundaries and build new friendships?

How can you share your relationship with God with your friends?




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s