Have you encountered irrational love and mercy?

It’s not every day one gets to see biblical stories acted out in person. For those of us who no longer attend children’s church, dramas tend to be confined to special occasions – the annual nativity production or the Palm Sunday procession, for instance. Maybe a reenactment is more common for parents who happen to have theatrical kiddos keen on both the Bible and Broadway…but even then, I suspect, it’s not every day.

So last night felt like a treat. I went to see Ruth, a contemporary adaptation of an ancient narrative I find especially captivating. Somewhat to my surprise, the modern-day script – set in California and Oklahoma along a timeline spanning from 1939 to 2007 – truly echoed the biblical account and drew close attention to the mind-boggling degree of (some) Christians’ faithfulness, mercy, and self-sacrifice. I could probably write several posts on the poignant questions that the play raised, but I’ll try confine myself to just this one.

In Act II, Ruth becomes baffled by Boaz’s generosity and repeatedly asks him, Why are you so kind to me? Why did you take me under your wing? Why would you even think twice about me, an unknown outsider? In response, Boaz boldly identifies himself as a follower of Jesus Christ.

As I listened to Ruth’s questioning, it struck me that she seemed entirely unaware of how her own actions – namely her pledge to stay by Naomi’s side through thick and thin – were equally as rich in love as Boaz’s kind embrace. It’s as if offering love to others felt perfectly natural to Ruth. But receiving it? That was a whole ‘nother story.

Ruth views herself as unworthy (who am I to deserve such love?) and thus demands a darn good explanation of Boaz’s motives. She thinks he is being completely irrational. And it turns out that she is exactly right. The crux of his answer is nothing more, nothing less than Jesus Christ, the one and only King of Mercy who offers the most irrational mercy imaginable.

On our behalf, Jesus surrendered his time, expended his energy, and opened his heart. He endured. He suffered. He bled. He died. He rose. For us – we fickle humans who are prone to praise him one day, then pay him no mind the next. We may start the morning down on our knees praying, then a few hours later realize we’re self-centeredly saying “not thy, but my will be done.”

Yes, Jesus’ gifts are the epitome of irrational. In fact, they’re so extraordinary that they can be difficult to accept. Yet he keeps offering, and what’s even crazier is that he then gives all of his very flawed followers the privilege of passing these free gifts along to others. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). We are first to delight in his divine mercies, then to distribute them mercifully.

Have you encountered irrational love and mercy?