“Follow me, I will make you fish for people.” – Matthew 4:19 (NRSVUE)
A lovely man in a church I briefly served was an astoundingly literal soul. Jesus’ metaphors confounded him. He was especially confused by “fishing for people.”
An angler himself, he often trolled for his breakfast on a morning lake amid herons and loons. But when he caught it? Oh, dear: the tearing hook, the struggle, the stunning blow, the gutting, the fire, the devouring.
We tried persuading him that fishing for people doesn’t include filleting them. No use. That unpretty picture was stuck in his head. And considering the track record of Christian evangelism over the centuries, he may’ve been onto something.
Christians have at times commended the faith with modesty and respect. But too often it’s been by coercion, degradation, and supremacy, which is one reason evangelism feels icky to many progressives now. And if at base all religions are the same, some ask, what’s the point?
That’s a fair question (if you grant the premise). But here’s another:
As long as there are people who want to know why we’re joyful, why we serve, why we’re bold (when we are); as long as there are people who wonder why we claim they’re loveable when others told them they’re not; as long as there are people who yearn for a grounding story, a particular wisdom, a distinctive community, a safe and welcoming table, a challenging ethics, a just practice—why would we dismiss their quest for a meaningful life with a glib “it’s all the same” when Jesus just might be the answer to the longing of their hearts?
We may need a new metaphor. We certainly need better practices. But there’s still “fishing” to do.
Jesus, help me not withhold the gift of you to anyone open to receiving it.
Click here to get today’s guide for discussing Don’t Fillet the Fish by Mary Luti along with today’s scripture.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.