“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:15–17
Some eighteen years ago, a verse from the book of Ruth was impressed on my mind as my new husband and I approached the town where he would be a curate: “Your people will be my people and your God my God.” The thought was daunting, for I was not long in the UK and was still getting used to the ways of my new countrypeople. As we entered the high street, these words reverberated within me. So much so that I wondered if living there would entail a cost.
Our time there was cut short, for tensions within the parish meant that the vicar was signed off on stress-related sick leave. My husband was left adrift. I began to consider whether I really did want “these people” to be “my people,” for I had witnessed behavior that left me sad and disquieted. But I knew that whatever their actions, these were still “my people,” for I too had the propensity for similarly uncharitable thoughts and deeds.
In the book of Ruth, we see a daughter-in-law so committed to her dead husband’s mother that she is willing to forsake her country and move with Naomi back to Bethlehem. Ruth becomes a pilgrim, serving her mother-in-law with grace and selflessness. For many, the story is familiar – Naomi finds a relative who agrees to marry Ruth, thus redeeming her under the law so that she can carry on the family line. Ruth and Naomi’s needs for protection, care and love are met.
All over the world, God’s people are our people. Who will he send on your path today?
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes and my heart to embrace your children.