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- Who are the outcasts in your community or your school?
- Who are the people that it is socially acceptable to make fun of or bully?
Ruth and her sister Orpah wept loudly as they clung to their mother-in-law Naomi. All three of their husbands were now dead, leaving them as the most vulnerable people in their world – widows. They had no sons to care for them, no property, no legal rights and very little chance of marrying again. They were desperate and it was likely that, unless a miracle occurred, death would come for them soon.
They had comforted each other in their grief and now their hearts broke and their voices cried out as Naomi told them she was leaving them forever. Naomi had come to love both Ruth and Orpah as if they were her own daughters. Her voice quivered as she told them not to come along on her journey west to her homeland of Judah. As she stood on the road that would lead her back to her home, a faraway village called Bethlehem, where she would live the rest of her days as a poor beggar among her people, the Hebrews, she pleaded with Ruth and Orpah, begging them to stay here in Moab. She had settled here years ago with her husband and sons seeking a better life during a famine in their own country. She knew too well the hardships of being a stranger in a strange land. She knew the girls would be seen as outsiders, aliens, if they came with her to Judah. Life would be hard enough as widows without also being aliens in another country. Surely, she thought, they would be better off among their own people.
Wiping away the tears streaming from her eyes, Orpah held Naomi one last time and then turned back to Moab, to try to piece together a new life alone. But Ruth refused and, cradling her mother-in-law’s face in her hands, she looked her in the eyes and proclaimed,
Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die – there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more so as well, if even death parts me from you! (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth did follow Naomi to Bethlehem where they would wait for the barley to be harvested and then, as protected by the Laws of Naomi’s ancestors, they would glean or collect the leftover grains from the corners of the fields and survive on them. They were treated poorly at first because Ruth was a Moabite — an outsider from a dangerous neighboring people. But when Naomi’s distant relative Boaz learned how this foreign woman, who grew up worshiping other gods, had stuck by and cared for her mother-in-law in spite of all the challenges she faced, his heart was moved. He owned the land where they were gleaning and he instructed his workers to purposefully leave more in the fields for them to collect and then made sure the other women would not harass them. Realizing that Boaz was doing all of this because he was attracted to Ruth, Naomi set in motion a plan using a dangerous deception so that they would be able to marry.
It worked and God blessed Ruth and Boaz with a son named Obed and Naomi became his nurse. And while she was not his biological grandmother, she cared for him all the same and found joy again in her life. God was pleased with Ruth, a woman from another country who had grown up worshiping many gods. He was pleased with Boaz for ignoring social pressure to ostracize a foreign woman at his mercy. And he was pleased with Naomi for loving her daughter-in-law as she did her own sons.
Obed would grow up to be the father of Jesse. And Jesse would grow up to the father of a boy named David who would one day become a king.
Think about someone in your life who is from another other cultures or who practices a faith besides Christianity. Do you see them as people inside or outside of God’s plan for this world? If you knew that something big needed to happen for someone to feel loved by God, would you do it? Or would you feel pressure from others not to do it because it would be outside the norm?
Remember: God decides who gets in.
You and I do not get to decide who God cares about and who God uses for his purposes. God’s definition of family and community are radically different and more expansive than our own.
Thank God for the people in your life who are not like you. Ask God to help you see them as part of His plan for your life, not just so you can be a good neighbor or classmate to them. Ask God to use them to help make you into a better Christian. Also ask God what you can do to show them that God loves them, no matter what they believe about God or Christians.
City of Refugees.