Those who fish well have certain spiritual gifts. They feel the water and know from the temperature what bait fish will be hungry for. They look at how cloudy the water is and choose the right lure. They view the lake from the fishes’ point of view and know what particular inlets the fish will congregate in according to the hour of the day and the season. These are precisely the skills Jesus was looking for when he chose the first disciples. As we learn to be his disciples today, we must develop a similar sensitivity for those outside the church.
At the lakeshore, there are two worlds. There is the world of air, bright light, and bipedal locomotion. Then, there is the submerged world where light filters through dimly and diminishes with depth. Sound travels quickly in this world and its creatures are often more sensitive to the direction a word is traveling from than to its content. We live in the airy world of the church. We think that if we say the right things, that is enough. Every action a congregation takes in this world comes from somewhere. If it comes from love and acceptance, we will be effective in bringing people out of the depths of sin. Transparency and authenticity matters more than doctrinal clarity when it comes to speaking to those who are outside the church.
There is boundary between the world of water and the world of air. It is hard for the fish to imagine the what lies beyond the surface. The air water boundary reflect back to them, like a mirror. Where they have inner fear, they sense only judgement from the church and God above. Even their sense of what is wholesome and beautiful may be distorted by the passage of light through lens of the water’s surface. The pagans of the Roman world accused the early church of being cannibalistic when they celebrated communion. We need today, disciples who will be like scuba divers, passing through the barrier between church and secular world.
Jesus didn’t start with a blank slate when he called disciples. He started with natural gifts that could be spiritually transformed. May it continue to be so in our lives. May we each become fishers of men.