We have forgotten how Jesus fished

Listening to the hymn, “Fishers of Men,” this morning I thought of Jesus’ words about how he would draw all people to himself.

Real fishing like I did with my dad decades ago involved casting a plastic lure attached to a monofilament line in among the underwater lairs of hungry bass. One fish bites. I set the hook into their mouths by yanking out the line’s slack. The bass fights. One of us wins; one loses.

When Jesus called Simon and Andrew to be fishers of men he did not call them to cast spiritual lures with hard-to-see line and trick unsuspecting people to grab hold and fight.

Simon and Andrew used nets to catch fish. They cast their weave out of their boat and hoped to capture fish below. I do not think Jesus was calling Simon and Andrew to go and cast spiritual nets to capture unsuspecting people. It surely is not what Jesus did.

Jesus merely meant: Come go with me and become a person who spends his day drawing  people, not fish, into your life. All metaphors have limits; they do not work completely. They help us get over a mental hurdle. Simon and Andrew’s lives were centered around fishing; Jesus’ call invited them to center their lives around humanity.

Starting somewhere in the not-too-distant past, my brand of Christian began to think of “fishing for men” as casting lures, snagging spiritually hungry people, and wrestling them into the church boat.

That is not what Jesus wants us to do. He wants us to do it the way he did it — by loving God and by loving our neighbor as ourselves. The lure of love has no hooks; it merely attracts. People who hunger for real living are drawn by that love.

Many people do not “go” to church because they do not see it as a place of love. Most people want to “be” in a community of love. They will reside where they are loved (wanted, respected, cared for) whether it be a bar, a gang, a club, or a church.

“And I, Jesus, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, NRSV)

He draws. If we do not draw people, it is because we are not like Him, we do not love.

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Shades of the past re-emerge

On a day when a man kills Jews in an American synagogue, I happen to be reading a novel in which the author speaks of Hitler and the countless people who “helped” him release his inner demons upon the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Hitler, the mouthpiece of hatred for Jews in his time and place, did not act alone.

“Oh they helped. Nearly all of them.” They were those “Who would not give visas and put barbed wire on their borders. Who threw stones through the window and spat.” And on and on went the list of accomplices — their names lost to history but accomplices of Hitler all the same.

“He could not have done it alone.”

Those who helped Hitler enact his hatred had long, maybe secretly, “dreamed” of destroying the Jews, the novelist wrote. Hitler “turned their dream into day.” His words of hate unleashed a storm of hatred against a people.

Hitler never spoke of the “barracks or the gas.” The “will to murder” was deep inside him and unspoken. The ruin of the Jews “was the air he moved in.”

“It was he,” Hitler. “With his scourge of speech and divining rod. His wrist breaking each time he passed her other men’s weakness. With his nose for the bestial,” Hitler’s “words made the venom spill.”

Such are the descriptions of the Holocaust in George Steiner’s 1979 book, The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.

Hitler espoused a philosophy of strength and power to overwhelm those he considered weak and inferior. He represented evil come to life. Hitler provided the words, the passion, the motive for hate. Six million deaths followed.

But evil still roams about seeking whom it might consume. Words of hate still spill into public discourse. Such words kill spirits, and such words sometimes lead to the killing of living persons.

Again, we weep. We think it cannot happen again. It can. It, the possibility for hate, is inside all of us.

May we all suppress the little Hitler inside us that wants to escape, that wants to despise, hate, and even hurt those who are different and are a perceived threat.

The way of hate and ridicule is not the way of the one I desire to follow — Jesus. Isn’t it strange that the Holocaust arose among a “Christian” people. Isn’t it sad; isn’t it disgusting.

Beware of “Christian” nations. Seek Jesus people. It is those people who seek to follow Christ who bring life and love to their neighbors.