The friendship of Ruth and Naomi in the biblical story of Ruth is a remarkable example of Philia Love, showcasing the depth of devotion and unwavering loyalty between two friends. In the face of immense tragedy and hardship, Ruth, a Moabite woman, chooses to accompany her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, on a journey back to Bethlehem. Their bond transcends cultural barriers and exemplifies the power of friendship love.

Ruth’s selflessness, sacrificial actions, and shared values create a foundation for their profound connection. Together, they navigate challenges, provide mutual support, and demonstrate the importance of empathy and inclusion. The story of Ruth and Naomi serves as a timeless testament to the enduring strength and transformative nature of Philia Love within the context of friendship.

What is Philia Love?

Philia love is one of the four types of love mentioned in the Bible. It refers to the affectionate and friendly love that exists between close friends, family members, or fellow believers. Philia love is based on mutual respect, loyalty, and shared values. It is different from agape love, which is the unconditional and sacrificial love that God has for us and that we are called to have for others. Philia love is also distinct from eros love, which is the romantic and passionate love between a man and a woman, and storge love, which is the natural and instinctive love that parents have for their children. Philia love is considered essential for cultivating healthy and meaningful relationships, as it promotes a sense of belonging, trust, and emotional support.

In Greek philosophy, philia love was highly valued and considered an important aspect of a flourishing and virtuous life. It was seen as a higher form of love that transcends self-interest and contributes to the overall well-being of individuals and society.

 

Who are Ruth and Naomi?

Naomi was a woman from Judah who moved to Moab with her husband and two sons because of a famine in Israel. There, her sons married two Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. But Naomi’s husband and sons died, leaving her alone with her daughters-in-law. Naomi decided to go back to Judah, where she heard that God had blessed his people with food. She told Ruth and Orpah to stay in Moab and find new husbands. Orpah agreed, but Ruth refused. She said to Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16 NIV)

This is one of the most famous expressions of devotion and commitment in the Bible, and it shows how much Ruth loved Naomi and was willing to follow her wherever she went. Ruth also embraced Naomi’s faith in the God of Israel, even though she was a foreigner and an outsider.

Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem at the time of the barley harvest, and they were very poor. Ruth decided to go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain that the harvesters had missed, a practice known as gleaning. This was a way of providing for the poor and the foreigners in Israel, as commanded by God in Leviticus 19:9-10. Ruth happened to glean in the field of Boaz, a wealthy and generous man who was a relative of Naomi’s late husband. Boaz noticed Ruth and was impressed by her hard work and her kindness to Naomi. He told his workers to leave extra grain for her and invited her to eat with them. He also protected her from any harm or harassment.

When Naomi learned that Ruth had met Boaz, she realized that he was a potential kinsman-redeemer for them. A kinsman-redeemer was a close relative who had the responsibility of buying back the land or property of a poor relative, or marrying the widow of a deceased relative to continue his family line. This was another way of ensuring justice and care for the vulnerable in Israel, as explained in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Naomi instructed Ruth to approach Boaz at night and ask him to redeem them. Ruth did as Naomi told her, and Boaz agreed to marry her if no other closer relative would do so.

Boaz then went to the town gate, where legal matters were settled, and asked the other relative if he wanted to redeem Naomi’s land and marry Ruth. The man declined, because he did not want to jeopardize his own inheritance. He gave Boaz his sandal as a sign of transferring his right of redemption to him. Boaz then announced to the elders and the people that he had bought Naomi’s land and taken Ruth as his wife. The people blessed Boaz and Ruth, and prayed that their marriage would be fruitful.

Ruth gave birth to a son named Obed, who became the grandfather of King David, the greatest king of Israel. Naomi also rejoiced over her grandson, who restored her life and hope. The book of Ruth ends with a genealogy that traces the line of David back to Ruth and Boaz, showing how God used their faithful love to bring about his plan of salvation for his people.

What can we learn from the story of Ruth and Naomi?

The story of Ruth and Naomi provides several valuable insights into the concept of Philia Love, or friendship love. Here are some lessons we can learn:

  1. Unwavering Loyalty: Ruth’s unwavering loyalty to Naomi serves as a powerful example of friendship love. Despite the challenges they face and the option to pursue a more comfortable life in her homeland, Ruth chooses to remain by Naomi’s side. This demonstrates the depth of her commitment and the importance of standing by friends in times of difficulty.
  2. Selflessness and Sacrifice: Ruth’s selfless actions exemplify the essence of Philia Love. She willingly sacrifices her own comfort and future prospects to support and care for Naomi. Her willingness to put Naomi’s needs above her own highlights the importance of selflessness and sacrificial love in true friendship.
  3. Mutual Support and Empathy: Throughout the story, both Ruth and Naomi provide mutual support and empathy for one another. They share in each other’s grief and struggles, offering comfort, encouragement, and understanding. This emphasizes the role of empathy and emotional support in friendship love, showing the importance of being there for friends during challenging times.
  4. Shared Values and Commitment: Ruth and Naomi share a strong bond due to their shared values and commitment to each other. Their common faith and dedication to their family create a solid foundation for their friendship. This highlights the significance of shared values and a sense of shared purpose in cultivating deep and meaningful friendships.
  5. Inclusion and Acceptance: Ruth, being a Moabite, represents an outsider who is accepted and embraced by the Israelite community. Her inclusion in the story signifies the power of acceptance and the breaking down of cultural and societal barriers. This teaches us that friendship love should transcend boundaries and embrace diversity, emphasizing the importance of inclusion and acceptance in genuine friendships.
  6. Sustaining and Nurturing Friendship: The story of Ruth and Naomi demonstrates the effort required to sustain and nurture friendship love. Both women actively invest in their relationship, going above and beyond to support and care for one another. Their commitment and dedication serve as a reminder that true friendship requires ongoing effort, communication, and mutual care.

 

Summary

Overall, the story of Ruth and Naomi teaches us about the qualities and dynamics of Philia Love. It emphasizes the significance of unwavering loyalty, selflessness, mutual support, shared values, inclusion, and the ongoing nurturing of friendship. Through their story, we are inspired to cultivate and cherish the deep bonds of friendship in our own lives, embodying the spirit of Philia Love.