Ruth was a very special person. She started out as a foreigner, a Moabite, one of the arch enemies of Israel and ends up as the great great great grandmother of one of the great kings of Israel, David and the great, great, great, great, great etc. grand mother of Jesus. What the story conveys to us is that in Gods plan everybody is special and invited to honor and respect that specialness in others. Ruth, the stranger unexpectedly becomes somebody very special in the history of Gods people. Boaz, the wealthy gentleman farmer, becomes a person through whoms extraordinary goodwill and generosity this all becomes possible.
Sure, in Bethlehem Ruth is received hospitable enough, but it is Boaz who takes this hospitality just that little bit further. He gets involved, takes responsibility and cares for a woman he really doesnt owe anything.
There is another man in the story, who is also invited to be good to Ruth, but contrary to Boaz, does not take up the offer. In the Hebrew he starts out as mister Tov, mister good, but is by the end of the story referred to as mister so and so.
He doesnt take up the opportunity to live out Gods call to look after the stranger and the widow and so fades into nothing-much-ness in the end. He had a good excuse mind you, it said explicitly in the law that Israelites were exempt from supporting Moabites when they came to the country because they had mistreated Israel in the desert on their way to the promised land. Ruth was the widow of an Israelite man, but that did not necessarily give her any rights to the social system that was in place. Boaz interprets the law generously and becomes a somebody in the history of his country as the great grand father of David. He is very special because he lives the law generously and is prepared to take responsibility for the well being of others, even where he, strictly speaking, not the appointed person to do so.
From the start we, the readers, know Ruth is special. She is faithful, generous and works hard to make life work for her, she gives up her home and her gods to care for her mother in law and chooses to serve God.
Only in conjunction with others however can Ruth truly begin to blossom and bloom. Where Boaz encourages his workers to leave just that little bit extra for her, where he doesnt expose her when she comes to him in the middle of the night but takes up her case and makes it his own, and where he marries her and she becomes one of the earth mothers of Israel.
Receiving the stranger, practice hospitality and provide justice for those who come to us is not only a matter of voting in the right political party or making sure human rights are not violated in the system. It is daring to become involved, with integrity, faithfulness and generosity to anybody we happen to find on our doorstep. Even those who may not, at first instance, seem to be our responsibility.
Because every person we meet, familiar or not, is special in the eyes of God and an opportunity to change ourselves from Mr or Mrs. Good into the Mr or Mrs. Extraordinary who give Gods love hands and feet in the world and make it a place where future generations will find a positive base to grow from. Amen