Have you ever felt like you didn't belong? Maybe felt like you were different than everyone else? Or, to flip the coin, have you ever met someone that was a little different from you.. maybe they were from a foreign country and new to your city, maybe they wore different styles of clothing or didn't talk in the same manner as you and your friends?
Whatever the difference might be, should it matter? Should we treat them differently? How would you want to be treated if you were the one different than everyone else?
This really is where Ruth is in the story at this time. She is widowed, she is living alone with her mother-in-law, she is living in a foreign land and is perceived as the "foreigner". In this time in history, the Moabites were stigmatized. She is poor, she must work in the fields to provide food for herself and Naomi. She grew up worshipping the idol god Chemosh instead of the one true Lord (though by now she has turned to the Lord). What a list of differences! My goodness, can you even begin to imagine how she felt? Wouldn't you imagine she felt rather like the "odd man out"?
Yet, even with all those differences, Boaz continues to offer kindnesses to Ruth. So much more than she could ever imagine. Ruth probably didn't know what to expect from these people in Bethlehem... people she had never met and were foreigners to her just as she was to them. From the way the scripture reads, though, I can't imagine that she ever thought she would receive the kind treatment offered her by Boaz.
Let's take a minute and go thru all that has been offered her by Boaz up to this point:
* Boaz tells Ruth to stay and work exclusively in his fields
* He then tells her to go alongside his female harvesters
* When Ruth is thirsty, she is to drink from the jars of water drawn by the servants
* In Ruth's own words Boaz has "reassured and encouraged" her
* Boaz offers Ruth food from his own table
* Boaz tells his male workers not to chase her off and to drop the ears of grain where Ruth can easily gather them for her own bag
Regardless of how "different" Ruth may have been perceived in Bethlehem, that didn't matter to Boaz. Her knew her to be a kind, loving and faithful woman. That was where he put his focus. Just as he should. In God's eyes it doesn't matter where we are from, what we look like, how we talk, what we wear, etc. It's what is in our hearts and in our minds that is important.
My prayer today is that I would always remember the love and kindness given to Ruth by Boaz. That this part of the story would serve as a reminder to me of how to treat those I encounter that the world would perceive as "different". I pray that I wouldn't fall to the worldly actions of treating them as if they were different. -- that I would never look upon them negatively or treat them differently just because they do not have the same background. I want to see thru all the external and love them for what is in their hearts and minds just as Boaz did for Ruth.