A Tradition of Fishin'

I'm struck by the New Testament text this morning. And this time, as I read it, I'm struck by something different. For reasons unknown to us, Jesus decided that these two brothers, Simon and Andrew, were meant to join him. How does he approach them? Pretty directly. He walks up to them, tells them to put down their nets and follow. And then he adds this little teaser: "I will make you fishers of men/fish for people."

I don't know why that struck me differently this time. But I particularly noticed his use of familiar metaphor here. There are two fishermen. And they are destined to be his disciples. So Jesus connects with them and their livelihood. Fishing is what they do. Jesus sees that, and also sees that their gifts can be used in his new ragtag band.

We learn in John's gospel that they are from Bethsaida, a town whose name literally means "Fishing Town." This task was so embedded in their DNA, whether through ancestry or even the wider culture, that they seemed almost to have no choice in their profession.

What Jesus does, though, is to take this task of fishing and re-envision it for God's sake. Moving from fishers of fish to fishers of people moves you not only out of the boat and into the towns, but it's a different kind of fishing for a different kind of purpose.

I remember a guy a few years ago, when he found out what I did, said, "Yeah, you're in sales." I bristled at that, not because of the idea itself, but more because the way it was said (or at least the way I heard it) intimated that I was no different than a snake oil pitchman. Besides, I reasoned, evangelism, by its nature of being an act of the church, is so fundamentally different that it couldn't be considered on par with something so "secular." We're not trying to sell people something they don't need, nor are we trying to present them a partial truth of our pitch. Besides, we're supposed to give it away.

And yet, could it be that Jesus, had Andrew and Simon been in the business of sales, would have told them they would no longer sell garments but would now sell the gospel? There is something deeply incarnational in this passage, Jesus connecting with the world in which these two fishermen live in such a direct way. He also connected with shepherds and others in the same way. Could it be that this is an invitation, not only to get out there and spread our nets as far and as wide as we can, but to consider what it is that we do that could ultimately benefit God's desires for the world? It will be different, redeemed, perhaps, since it is on behalf of God and not on behalf of ourselves, our families, our nation, our bosses, our teachers.

What is it that you do, whether by choice or because history has so defined your place, that can be redeemed for the sake of God's vision? What gifts do you have that can be used for the kingdom? Your work, your studies, your hobbies, the thing that gives you joy, or something that has been handed down to you by previous generations?