Cigarette Wrapper (Ruth 1:16-17)

Many years ago when I was a child growing up in Hawaii, my father and I were watching a documentary about World War II. It chronicled the homefront and the sacrifices that everyday Americans made to help with the war effort. All metal was in short supply and nearly every family contributed scrap metal to assist. My father’s family was poor but that did not prevent him from doing what he could.

“I remember what I used to do.” At that time in my life, my father smoked cigarettes. He held up a cigarette wrapper and pointed to the top of the package. “You see this foil? I used to go around the neighborhood streets and sidewalks and pick up used cigarette wrappers so I could collect the foil. When I had several hundred of them, I would turn them in to the metal collection sites.”

I was impressed. “Is there a lot of metal in that foil wrapper?”

My father shook his head. “No, but every little bit helped. Your grandpa was in Burma, serving as a translator, helping the Americans and British against the Japanese. Your uncle Tsutomu was in Europe fighting with the 442nd against the Germans and Italians. I wanted to do my part.”

My father was a Nisei, a second generation Japanese-American. It is ironic that he was helping with the war effort against his ancestral homeland but he had no conflict or hesitation. He was proud to be an American. I was proud of my father’s patriotism and equally proud of my family’s contribution to help end the war which threatened the liberty of our adopted homeland. 

Thousands of years ago, an alien woman also pledged allegiance to her new homeland and people. Ruth was a Moabite, a kingdom that was often in conflict with Israel, despite having a common ancestor through Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Ruth was the daughter-in-law of the widow of a Jewish woman, Naomi, whose two sons married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Tragically, her husband and both of her sons died. Seeking a better life, Naomi decided to return to Jerusalem, her homeland, and instructed her two daughter-in-laws to leave her and remain in their homeland of Moab. Orpah left but Ruth clung to her mother-in-law. 

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

Ruth 1:16-17 (NLT)

In spite of being raised in Moab and worshipping other gods, Ruth, through her relationship with Naomi, recognized the One True God and was determined to serve Him, even turning her back on her own people. Her faith in God was rewarded and she later married a wealthy distant cousin, Boaz, and became the great grandmother of King David, the ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

The world is a beautiful family of different ethnic, cultural, and political backgrounds. While we should celebrate and embrace our heritages, there are times when our loyalties are challenged and we may have to choose, turning our back on our own. Throughout this broken world, millions like Ruth, have chosen Jesus Christ over their native religions and country. Many are persecuted, ostracized, tortured, and killed for their faith. Yet, it is their belief in the Truth that is greater than their belief in their heritage that compels them. In Jesus Christ, we are not divided by race or country but united through faith and belief in His Name. 

Amen!

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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