Ruth asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”
Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done…how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2:10-12)
The news this week is filled with reports about new guidelines that will toughen enforcement of policies related to immigrants. It is at least somewhat ironic, therefore, that most of the Old Testament readings in the Daily Office this week are taken from the Book of Ruth, which many scholars believe was written to promote an inclusive attitude toward foreigners and to remind God’s people that foreigners, too, are part of God’s purpose.
In pointing that out, of course, it’s not my intent spur heated debate about our nation’s immigration policies. The world of ancient Israel was quite different from the world of contemporary America, and in our context there may be good reason to exercise certain kinds of control over our nation’s borders. But since God’s Law contains repeated admonitions about the proper treatment of “foreigners” among us – and since many stories in the Bible (including Ruth) reveal a God whose loving purpose reaches out to include the very people that we are tempted to exclude – it does seem to me (if we’re going to be Christian about it) that our approach ought to be tempered by a healthy dose of compassion.
In his first epistle, the Apostle Peter urged his brothers and sisters in Christ to “live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” (1 Peter 1:17) After all, “our citizenship is in heaven; and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) May God give us grace today to understand that no person with whom we come in contact – regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or country of origin – is beyond the reach of His mercy and His plan; and may we live as people for whom “the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14) has been set aside in Christ.