Image by Scott O’Donnell on Flickr CC BY-2.0

Do you ever feel like you have too much “baggage” to ever be accepted by people, let alone by God?

Do you need a sense of hope that you could be loved despite the burdens you’re carrying from your background? Then read on…

A few weeks ago, we explored the moving account of Ruth and Boaz in the Old Testament. It’s a favourite of many people, because it’s one of the few outright love stories in the Bible. But we sometimes get so caught up in the romance of the story that we miss how startling their pairing actually was.

Boaz was a wealthy landowner living in ancient Israel. He was successful and respected, a descendent of Abraham himself. One would have expected him to marry a woman of his own people, someone from an equally illustrious family.

But Boaz ended up marrying Ruth, a woman with three strikes against her: she was poor, a widow and a foreigner. She had nothing and was a nobody in the eyes of the Israelites. In fact, she was worse than that: she was a Moabite, a group hated by the Israelites. No doubt Ruth was looked down on by many in the community.

So why would Boaz agree to marry her? We know that Boaz respected Ruth for how she’d cared for her mother-in-law. And certainly, God’s hand was on their meeting and their union. But why was Boaz so accepting of the idea of marrying someone like Ruth? Why was he not put off by her “baggage”?

I believe an answer lies in Boaz’ background. Turns out he had some baggage of his own.

The Book of Ruth doesn’t actually tell us who Boaz’ mother was. But if we turn to the genealogy listed in the first chapter of Matthew, we learn something astonishing:

Boaz’ mother was Rahab.

Wait a minute. Rahab the Canaanite? Rahab the prostitute?

Yes, that Rahab.

“Rahab and the Emissaries of Joshua” Unknown artist, 17th century
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Boaz’ mother was a Canaanite, a group hostile to the Israelites, and to top it off, she had been a harlot. So he was well positioned to be able to empathize with Ruth’s sketchy background. Her baggage didn’t phase him, but rather made him have compassion for her. Boaz could relate, because he knew a thing or two about having a skeleton in his family closet

There’s another thing Boaz knew. He might have grown up hearing whispered stories about his mother’s disreputable past, but he also knew how God had redeemed her. Rahab’s faith in the God of Israel led her to be spared when Jericho was destroyed. She was accepted into the family of God and went on to marry Salmon, Boaz’ father. She was loved and honoured despite her baggage.

You can be, too. Because do you know who else knows something about having baggage?

Jesus.

That’s right. Jesus was slighted because of His past, too.

He was sometimes disdained because of where he came from. When Nathanael was told that Jesus was from Nazareth, he asked:

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46 NIV)

People also scoffed at Jesus because of his family background. When He taught in the synagogue at Nazareth, people essentially said, “Who does he think he is?”

“ ‘He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.’ They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.” (Mark 6:3 NLT)

Did you catch the insult there? They called Jesus the “son of Mary,” which while true, was intended as a slur. Normally, a man would be referred to by his father’s name, and Jesus’ earthly father was Joseph. By refusing to call Jesus the “son of Joseph,” they were implying that He was the illegitimate son of some other man.

If you’ve ever been disparaged because of your family background, your past or where you came from, Jesus understands. He had some baggage, too. He can sympathize with whatever you’re going through. He gets it.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)

If you feel unworthy, come as you are to God, with all your baggage. You won’t be turned away. Through His merciful love He can redeem your past, and turn your life into something beautiful and worthwhile.

Remember that genealogy in the Book of Matthew we mentioned earlier? It’s the lineage of Christ Himself. Both Ruth and Rahab appear in it.

How’s that for having your past redeemed?

© 2020 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.

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