“And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Mathew 4:19
Growing up, this Bible verse fascinated me because one of my uncles was a commercial fisherman working Missouri’s rivers. I fished with my father, casting my line, reeling it in and catching the occasional bass or blue gill. Dad had bells that he could put on the tip of the rod in case he dozed off. In my mind, fishing was a relaxed, lackadaisical affair.
This past weekend, Pastor Sean gave a children’s message on this verse. The first thing that Sean reminded us, the children and the adults alike, is that the men Jesus called fished with nets. Net fishing is illegal in Missouri so we don’t know much about it. We don’t consider the implications.
Fish with a net, and you pull in everything. Everything. You get fish that are good eating, catfish, bass and crappie. You also get the ones that aren’t so great, carp and pike.
Christ told a group of fishermen to fish for people or, more directly, to bring people to Christ. But remember that these are net fishermen. Christ wasn’t telling them to bring just good, upstanding Jews to Christ, the people that you’d want to see at temple. Bring them all. Jews and Gentiles. Tax collectors. Romans. Centurions.
What implications does this have for the other missions that Christ has given us? You know things like helping the orphans and the widows? The refugees and the foreigners?
Just this week, the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, the director of the Presbyterian Church USA Office of Public Witness joined with other faith leaders for a press conference (read the announcement here). His topic? The least of these – the refugee.
“Nearly 60 million people are displaced by war and persecution; 30 million of those are children. Eleven million displaced Syrians cannot go to school, tend to their land or raise their children in the place they know as home,” said Hawkins. “They are spending months journeying, sleeping outside and praying for a future for their families in a place that is safe from conflict. Our nation has historically stood for hope and welcome for those fleeing war and persecution. We cannot turn our backs on them now.”
Hawkins issued a call to those of us who fish for people. “Rather than follow our most basic instincts of fear and hatred,” he said, “we must send a message of hope and healing, of peace and justice to those fleeing desperate situations.”
Do you dare accept the challenge to pick up a net? If so, let your voice be heard.