Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13
Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. Ruth 2:10-11
My pastor loves to say, “let’s build a church”. I love it too. It clarifies, for all of us, that “church” is not something we merely attend; rather, it is something we build together. It reiterates that we all have a part to play in that building process.
Paul used the same metaphor in 1 Corinthians 3 to describe the work of the church. Indeed, Paul cautions us to be careful about the materials we use when building the church. He warns us that, in doing kingdom work, we should be using extraordinary materials, rather than common, everyday materials. He also warns us that our work will be tested. By fire. *gulp!*
So, what are these “building materials” in Paul’s metaphor? What, exactly, are the building blocks of the work of God in this world? I believe the answer is simple: relationships. They are central to every meaningful endeavor (i.e., work which has any eternal significance at all) by God’s people. And, in scripture, relationships are most often the parchment across which God has written His compelling story.
The book of Ruth is a wonderful example. In a story from scripture which barely even references God, the narrative focuses entirely on relationships: Ruth/Naomi and then Ruth/Boaz. And the story provides a critical piece of the all-important lineage of families God uses for His larger story in scripture. It literally fills in the gap from Rahab to David in Jesus’ own genealogy.
Ruth forges extraordinary relationships in her life. Widowed at a young age, she embraces a lifelong relationship with her mother-in-law (also widowed). The relationship is exactly the kind of “gold, silver and precious stones” Paul encourages us to use to accomplish God’s purposes. Ruth left the comfort of her own people and traveled with Naomi, becoming a foreigner in Naomi’s homeland. Ruth then presses out into that culture, availing herself of new relationships, which would include Boaz, who would become her “kinsman redeemer” and husband. It is a compelling story of uncommonly beautiful relationships.
Ruth’s is a story that has me considering the relationships in my own life; all of them, old and new. I wonder if I ever press out into my world like Ruth did, in order to find new friendships. I consider whether my existing friendships are as deep and as intimate as God requires. In short, the question I ask myself is this: are my relationships the kind of “gold, silver and precious stones” of which God’s work is comprised? So much to think about.