What Is Love?
This lyrical passage is rightly one of the best-loved in the bible. As Christians, you will always have read it in context. But if you were a Martian, you would assume that this was describing a sexual relationship with full emotional commitment, probably said by a woman to a man as it is essentially submissive.
Mothers-in-law as Love Objects
You’re smiling already, aren’t you? In our culture, the relationship between anyone and their mother-in-law is a byword for thorniness, particularly so between a woman and her husband’s mother. Hardly surprising when the daughter-in-law/wife has ‘stolen’ the son from his mother. It’s not just Bernard Manning, someone has started a blog to cover this topic:
The breakdown in relationships between mother-in-laws (MILs) and daughter-in-laws (DILs) are one of the commonest problems in this world. These problems occur because of differences in opinions; communications; pettiness; spitefulness; different upbringings; jealousies; over-protectiveness etc etc.
Mothers-in-law in a Digital Age
I truly attempted to love my mother-in-law as Ruth loved hers. Reader, I did not succeed. Am I alone in this? I very much doubt it. Did it matter? Well, in the late twentieth century/early twenty-first century, no it probably didn’t. We didn’t hate each other, and we often enjoyed each other’s company as we found things in the other which we could share. We did not live under the same roof, but we saw each other every few weeks. Nowadays we could have kept in touch by email or Facebook. If she said something to irritate me (or vice versa) we could cool off away from the computer. Anyone ought to be able to be a Good Little Christian daughter-in-law under those circumstances.
In a digital age, it is up to both parties to set the parameters of the relationship. We all have relationships through social media which can be picked up and put down at will. Others, even though we may never have met them face to face, rely on and demand daily interaction. These are normally not verbalised as social contracts, and some relationships ebb and flow between various degrees of closeness.
Mothers-in-law in the Old Testament
Before modern communications, relationships depended on constant physical contact. Paul managed to keep his relationship with the Ephesians, Colossians and so on going by means of letters – but they would not have worked on their own without regular physical contact as well. Ruth and Naomi did not have the luxury of occasional spaces in their togetherness. Of course, each to some extent needed the other for purely practical reasons in order to survive. And the man that might have come between them was dead. Nevertheless, the degree of affection between these two was extraordinary – the Book of Ruth ends with the women of Boaz’s household saying to Naomi: “your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons”. In other words, Ruth’s original somewhat extravagant entreaty was borne out in full measure in practice.
How about canonisation? Or at the very least, beatification, for both Naomi and Ruth?