Naomi, her husband and sons moved away from their country to Moab when their own land was experiencing famine. Her sons married local Moabite women. When the men of the family die, Naomi decides to return to her homeland.
One daughter-in-law stays with her people in Moab, but the other, Ruth, accompanies Naomi, moving away from her people and into a foreign land.
But with no job and no income, Ruth needs to provide for herself and her mother-in-law Naomi. They’re staying near the farm of Boaz, a rich land-owning relative of Naomi.
Ruth doesn’t sit and beg. But instead gleans grain from Boaz’s fields, picking up the bits missed by his workers who are harvesting the fields. Now the farm workers could have picked on Ruth, a foreign national skulking around their fields, taking their harvest.
But Boaz tells them to protect her, to eat with her when they take a break, to let her work in the most fertile sections of the land, and even to purposely drop the odd bit of grain to make sure she has something to glean.
It’s the beginning of the story of Ruth, a four chapter novella early on in the Old Testament. Boaz was instinctively inclusive to the outsider, looking out for them. Like us, he knew that those who don’t fit in—with different nationality, culture, language, colour, or different interests and education, or different sexuality—are easily picked on. He positively discriminated, because it was the right thing to do. As a wealthy landowner, Boaz could afford to be generous and go the extra mile.
As the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of slavery is marked, and the film Amazing Grace (see the earlier post) celebrating the life of John Newton hits our cinema screens. As racism continues race to catch up with sectarianism in our society. What can we do to be like Boaz, and go the extra mile for the outsiders we come across in our community?
May be it’s someone in work who doesn’t fit in with the crowd, someone who no one talks to at the bus stop or on the train, someone in a shop who looks like they need help but everyone is ignoring.
So go on, go the extra mile this week. Surprise yourself and pleasantly surprise someone else by putting their interests ahead of your own.