Nowadays buttermilk is skim milk to which cultures have been added to develop flavor and to thicken consistency. Buttermilk has its place in the baker’s refrigerator. It adds tang and helps the rise, especially when used with baking soda. You will have the highest and fluffiest biscuits and pancakes you ever made.
The word “culture” has several meanings. A culture can be a special nutrient in which things are grown, usually in laboratories. In agriculture it can refer to tillage to prepare the land for planting. It can apply to a specific community of people and their shared beliefs and customs, and also the things they produce like art, music, and literature. Can you see in all these cases a relationship to growth and improvement? In the kitchen it certainly produces better baked goods. But culture can be negative as well. The culture of Sodom and Gomorrah produced a sinful lifestyle that led to its destruction.
Ruth understood the effects of a culture. This brave young widow was willing to leave behind her culture and embrace another just so she could worship Jehovah. In her world, no matter the culture, widows could look forward to only two things—either a new husband to support her, or poverty for the rest of her life. “Orphans and widows” were the symbol of helplessness throughout the scriptures. Ruth’s best bet for a happy and prosperous life was to stay in her homeland among her own people and find that new husband.
But something was more important to her than her comfort zone, as we so often call it. She completely changed her culture. She left home for a place where she had to learn a new language, new customs and traditions, and new laws. She left her family and her friends for a people not known for accepting strangers with open arms. Why do you think the law is full of reminders to take care of “strangers and sojourners?” We know the end of the story, but Ruth didn’t. She had nothing to look forward to but a life of hard work and poverty, dependent upon whether or not these new people she was willing to claim as her own followed the laws God set up to support widows. I think it is obvious that even if they had not, her conversion was to Jehovah, not them, and she would have continued on anyway.
How about us? Do we have the strength to give up our culture? Language, fashion, music, literature, entertainment, and what passes as art these days is often completely opposed to the righteousness God expects of his people. Can you give it up?
I find it helps to think of it like this: I am not giving up my culture to stand alone. I am giving up one culture for another. Our citizenship is in Heaven, Paul reminds us in Phil 3:20. Just as Ruth was willing to embrace a new culture, we should too, and in that embracing we find support from those who are just like us. We are no longer standing alone against the crowd.
Which culture do you live in this morning?
But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you." Ruth 1:16,17.