I just finished watching the message from this weekend at Calvary since I missed it being out of town in Michigan, and I learned a new Hebrew word: hesed. It means love + loyalty, commitment + sacrifice, a one-way love, God’s kind of love, “love without an exit strategy,” or stubborn love.
We’ve been studying the book of Ruth, and this week Frank focused in on this word for “loving-kindness” or “love” in Chapter 2. He talked about how Naomi prayed hesed over Ruth and Orpah when she asked them both to leave her. She asked that God would show loving-kindness to them. Ruth, however, showed hesed to Naomi when she stayed with her, despite Naomi’s omission of thanks or gratitude at the commitment. Ruth vowed to go with Naomi in that famous passage “…your people will be my people and your God, my God…” Even when Naomi didn’t treat her affectionately in return, Ruth kept her vow. I’m sure Ruth would have appreciated a thank you or a hug or a tear of overwhelming gratitude, but Naomi was silent. Pain does that to us.
One-way love is difficult, and one-way love is painful. But, it’s this kind of love that beckons us from the Cross to come and die. Jesus was and is the ultimate embodiment of hesed.
As I reflect on the weekend trip to Detroit, this word seems a fitting summation of why we were there. Five of us helped our friend move via a 13-hour U-Haul road trip because she believes in restoring the waste places. She believes in investing in a people group not her own. God has given our friend a heart for this city and for its people. She has vowed to make this place home and to adopt some foreign customs in order to best serve a people in need. She will experience life as somewhat of an outsider in this place, and she’s ok with that. She brings a message of love with her life. She will be light in the darkness. She will live a life of sacrifice. She will be loyal to the calling. There is no exit strategy. Even in the midst of opposition, she will love, even stubbornly. Even if the love isn’t returned, she will still show loving kindness.
Late one night we heard the call to prayer outside her bedroom window as we sat in her floor praying for this next chapter in her life. It was a haunting call. It rang out and no doubt brought many to their knees. And yet, we do want people on their knees. But we pray for freedom, for truth, for hope, for restoration, for salvation.
Three girls living in a foreign community on American soil have committed to “love without an exit strategy.” Even during a fleeting moment of panic, realizing that all her belongings were in the U-Haul in front of us, our friend hasn’t wavered from this call. Her love for the people there is stubborn.
The weekend’s challenge to me was hesed, although I didn’t know it at the time. God calls us to love like he does. He wants us to be like him so that others can see that HE is the one they are waiting for.