I’m sure that you will have heard the story of the man on the beach which was covered in starfish, he starts throwing them back into the sea and an observer of this strange phenomena asks him why he’s doing it, surely it will make no difference? The man replies, it will to that one…
The rather crude point being that we can’t change the world but maybe we can change one persons life. It’s a story I’ve heard wheeled out everytime I’ve expressed being overwhelmed by the issues and problems in the world.
I was on a beach in Norfolk last week. There were lots of starfish out on the shore. I was reminded of the story just told, now was my chance to prove myself, I could save a starfish, next stop I can make a difference in the world… But… I did nothing. I didn’t fling a starfish back in the sea delighted to have saved just one of them. I thought about it, I reasoned that my throwing arm was not great, I wasn’t sure if they were dead anyway and if throwing it back would help. I moved on down the coast ignoring the starfish. What does this mean? What does this say about me? I can’t even save a starfish let alone a person in this world. I genuinely felt some guilt about ignoring a possibly dead starfish. Blimey.
On a more sane day I reflected that maybe Jesus calls us to love the people in front of us and didn’t start with starfish as a practise exercise, he probably doesn’t have a grading of things you’ve helped so you can reach the next stage. Imagine if he did. Right, you’ve saved a beatle from being squashed, lets see if you can help a cat out of a tree, great, next up see if you can save that horse from the river. Brilliant, now go and help that old lady across the road, and now you are ready to go to Africa to help in an Aids clinic.
I’m pretty thankful that I didn’t just fail the first test in my saving the world exam. I’m also sure that I now have to get on and obey what Jesus did tell me to do. Love my neighbour, not my starfish.