The Star Thrower

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“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Anthropologist Loren Eiseley was walking on the beach at Costabel. Among the professional shellers and collectors hurrying along with bundles of treasures snatched from the sand, he saw a man reach down to pick up an object and pitch it back into the sea. Eiseley saw that the man was kneeling. He tells the story in his book The Star Thrower:
In a pool of sand and silt, a starfish had thrust its arms up stiffly and was holding its body away from the stifling mud.
"It’s still alive," I ventured.
"Yes," the man said, and with a quick and gentle movement, he picked up the star and spun it over my head far out into the sea. . . .
"Do you collect?" I asked.
"Only like this," he said softly, gesturing amidst the wreckage of the shore. "Only for the living." He stooped again, oblivious of my curiosity, and skipped another star neatly across the water. "The stars," he said, "throw well. One can help them."

Each morning, Eiseley found this man on his mission of mercy. Eiseley named the man “the star thrower.” In a moving essay, the anthropologist wrote of how the man’s work on the beach contradicted everything he had been taught about the survival of the fittest. There on the Costabel beach, the strong reached down to save the weak, not crush them. Greed gave way to mercy. Life was not purely selfish struggle. Here was radical goodness that restored life rather than take it.

Eiseley wondered: is there a star thrower at work in the universe, a God who contradicts death and gives life?

“When they came to the place that is called the Skull,” says Luke’s Gospel, “they crucified Jesus. . . .” That word crucified gathers up all the ways in which we say no to life—the ways we hurt, wound, and kill one another. We destroy rather than heal. We judge rather than affirm. We strike back rather than reach out. We choose sides and shout across the chasm. We fear those different from us. We compete and undercut others for workplace advantage. We return anger for anger on the highways. And when goodness and truth come from God in human form, we kill the Incarnation: “They crucified him.”

But, Jesus? The first words from his mouth are: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

He refuses to return evil for evil and breaks the cycle of violence. He absorbs our anger, our hatred, our sin into Himself, without passing it on. He returns evil with good. He stoops down, picks us up, throws us back into the sea, gives us back to life. He is the “star thrower.”

Jesus calls us to the radical way of love in the workplace, our homes, at school, on the streets, in stores, in politics. This is not “random acts of kindness.” This way commits to goodness and love in everything we say and do. This is a spiritual discipline that forms us in the image of Jesus Christ, growing “to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). This way can defuse anger, dissolve hatred, heal wounds, melt hearts, change minds.

Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power” (Strength to Love).

Have you ever been plucked by the tender hand of mercy and flung back into the sea? Have you been given back your life?

"Father, forgive them . . ." The Life-Giver stoops down, picks us up, and throws us back into the sea with with an eternal Yes!