When you think of love, what comes to mind? I doubt if you think of the animal kingdom. My friend, Mary, lives in a suburban neighborhood inhabited by peacocks. No one can say for sure how the peacocks came to the area. Mary saw them when she moved in forty-five years ago. Although the flock fluctuates in numbers, she estimates there are over one hundred peacocks now. Mary’s neighbors have different opinions about the birds. Some folks love having them around. Others complain when the peacocks block neighborhood traffic or roost on their roofs.
One day, Mary’s daughter, Kim, discovered a peacock chick on the front lawn. The weakling had been abandoned by its mother. Kim scooped up the baby peacock and carried it to the backyard where her family raises chickens. She opened the coop and gently placed the young peacock inside. What do you think happened? Did the chickens raise a fuss? Did they attack the little peacock?
Quite the opposite. The young chickens welcomed the newcomer. In fact, they huddled around the the baby peacock like it was something they wanted to protect. They didn’t notice that the peacock was different.
The love the chickens demonstrated for the peacock reminds me of the Bible story, Ruth. Due to a devastating famine, an Israelite couple (Elimelech and Naomi) move to a foreign country called Moab. In summary, Naomi’s sons marry Moabite women (Orpah and Ruth.) Eventually, Naomi’s husband dies. After that, her two sons pass away. Naomi feels abandoned.
Word gets around that the famine in Naomi’s home town of Bethlehem has ended. Naomi packs her bag and prepares for the journey home. She urges her daughters-in-law to return to their mother’s homes because she has no more sons who can provide for them. Orpah follows Naomi’s advice, but Ruth refuses. “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn from 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 will be my God” (Ruth 1:16 NIV.)
Ruth’s declaration of love surprises Naomi. If Ruth moves to Bethlehem, she will leave behind her parents, her culture, and her god to go to a foreign land. Why? The only explanation is love. Like the chickens and the peacock, Ruth doesn’t see the differences between herself and Naomi. She only sees their similarities.
The two women set off together. Once they arrive in Bethlehem, Ruth gleans the leftover grain from the barley harvest and shares it with Naomi. Her commitment is rewarded. Soon she remarries and conceives a son.
Love is more than a feeling. It’s an action not hindered by cultural differences or appearance. Love means putting aside your needs in order to help someone else. I still believe love has the power to change lives for the better. Will you be like Ruth in a world which desperately needs love?