In the land of the Inuit the fox and the owl disliked each other. Perhaps it was because they hunted for some of the same food. Each felt superior and saw no reason why the Creator made the other. The fox boasted that he was strong and cunning; the owl boasted about being wise. Now it so happened that it was early spring and the fox was losing his winter fur. This caused him to look dirty grey and ragged of appearance. He was on his way to hunt and walked by the owl’s nest.
“Hey you! You are a funny colour! Do you have a skin disease? You are ugly. Why do you come by our nest wearing old rags?” cried the owl, mocking the fox.
“I promise you,” replied the fox, “By the time of the new moon, I will have new clothes. But see if you can get newly dressed. Then we shall see which one of us is the better looking! At new moon I shall come back.”
The challenge accepted, the fox returned to his wife and pups. Meanwhile, the owl spent much time washing his feathers and brushing his black and white spots.
At the new moon the fox reappeared. He was handsome. His hair was long and shining. His chest was covered with thick fur. When he saw the owl, he began to ridicule, saying “Why didn’t you change your clothes? What you have on your back now is no better than what you were wearing before!”
The owl had tried to make himself handsome, but he could not change his feathers. His efforts to beautify himself barely helped. So he became angry and attacked the fox. They fought until the fox had killed the owl.
Very angry, the owl’s wife sought revenge and attacked the weary fox. To avoid being bitten the fox escaped to his den. But the owl swooped down on the fox, attacking him with her strong breast. The blows knocked the fox to the ground. Then the owl holding the back of the fox’s head in her sharp claws, killed the fox with her sharp beak.
Later, a vixen with her pups arrived at the owl’s nest. She was looking for her husband, the fox. The owl watched them approach and flew away leaving her own chicks behind. The vixen quickly killed all but one of the young owls. Having won revenge, the vixen ran back to her den with her pups.
The owl followed, seeking revenge. She attacked the pups first. With heavy blows, she killed all but one of them and then attacked their mother. The enemies slashed and bit each other until both died. Regrettably their hatred lived on in the young hearts of the pup and chick, creating in them a deep desire for revenge. There would be no peace in the land for yet another generation.
Learning From the Story
In the same way, there is much pain and suffering in our world. Like the fox, we are not truly strong. Like the owl, we are not truly wise. We are made weak and foolish by pride and anger, both of which feed on revenge.
A strong heart (the control of thoughts and feelings) is better than a strong hand. Strength of heart is found in knowing we are children of God and by seeking things which lead to peace. Strength is gained by accepting those who do not look like us or live as we do. Strength is seen when we respond with love, patience and humility even when others laugh at us.
True wisdom gives strength. The wise refuse to drink that which will poison both them and their children. Wisdom does not thirst for revenge, from which flows an endless stream of suffering and killing. Wisdom flies above the hatred on the wings of love. Wisdom shows great strength and courage by flying away from insult.
The lack of true strength and wisdom divides communities. In the Arctic, filth and disease are controlled by the foxes and owls who hunt for mice and rats. Spiritually clean, healthy and strong neighbourhoods happen when neighbours love and respect each other. Strength produces love and wisdom produces respect. United communities are strong and healthy.
The call to violence rings out through the ages. But the wise hear the words of Jesus the Messiah. “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven… If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”1
The Bible tells us to live in such a way that everyone can see we are wise, strong and honourable. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, ‘I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,’ says the Lord. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.’ Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.”2
As children of God we must depend on him. God gives the strength of true wisdom and the wisdom of true strength. Only the strong can return good for evil. Only the strong can love their enemies. The wise destroy their enemies by making them their friends. The weak find it easier to hate their enemies. The weak can only return evil for evil.
To work for peace is to take risks. “God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs”. Yet, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”3 The path of peace is the way of righteousness, courage and faith.
The way to lasting peace is forgiveness. To give and accept forgiveness makes possible relationships which break the stream of revenge.