Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing-floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing-floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.’ She said to her, ‘All that you tell me I will do.’
I remember, when I began training for ministry, becoming aware that there were different views on approaching Scripture: Conservative Evangelical, Liberal, feminist, Liberation Theology…and so on. I realised I needed to be aware when reading that this was the case.
We develop our views according to the life we have led and the people we have engaged with. Imagine being a woman who has been forced to live a life dictated by family? Imagine being forced to flee your home, and everything you have worked for, and being made to live in a refugee camp? Imagine being marginalised due to your sexuality or gender? One comes to the texts in the Bible with these experiences and sees texts in a different way to those for whom life has been straightforward or uncomplicated.
Last year I led a Bible Study in two different churches and got two different responses to this text. In one church there was horror and outrage that a woman was expected to give herself sexually to a man in order to find security; in the other there was a sense of the benevolence of Boaz and his kindness, with no hint of sexual favour or male power. I think this is something we all experience: how we approach texts depends on our life experience, learning and the image of God we relate to. In this text, for me, a woman had no choice but to submit to male power. This was of its time; what is horrifying is that this still happens today for people.
Whatever approach we take to Scripture it should speak to us and change us. It is important that we do not just read the texts, but we allow them to challenge us and inspire us to be sharers of light and love where we find ourselves, and as we are able.
Gracious God, so often we come with preconceptions and no idea that we carry so much baggage. Help us to approach the words of Scripture with open hearts, ears to hear and eyes to see. May we then make time to be changed by what we have experienced and share this with those alongside whom we walk. Amen.
The Rev’d Jenny Mills. Minister at Newport Pagnell URC and West End United Church, Wolverton and Convenor of the URC Children and Youth Work Committee.