Tag Archive for them

Fishers of Men: Part 2–Track Record

 

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration.  When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”

 Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me?  My time hasn’t come yet.”

 His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.

 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did.  The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine.  He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

The headwaiter called the groom and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first.  They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely.  You kept the good wine until now.”  This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee.  He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.  (John 2:1-11 CEB)

 

Jesus hasn’t even had a chance to start teaching or building into these guys who are following Him.  His disciples have only just met Him and have literally not had time to do anything but get to this wedding, perhaps chatting a bit on the way.  They really didn’t have any way of knowing for sure at this point what they were getting into.

 

But then, Jesus reveals His glory to His new disciples by changing the water into wine.  From that point on, the fishermen were themselves hooked.

 

Now go back to the passage at the beginning of Part 1, where Simon (now called Peter) and Andrew drop their nets to follow Jesus full-time.  This event takes place A YEAR after the wedding at Cana.

 

So Jesus wasn’t just walking along the beach casting hypnotic spells on ignorant and gullible people.  First, they knew their scriptures well enough to know that a Messiah was coming.  Second, John the Baptist had pointed them directly to Him.  Third, they had seen Him perform a miracle firsthand.

 

So by this time, Jesus had an established track record with these guys.

 

Luke 5 goes into much more detail than Mark 1 about what Jesus was doing at the lake that day.  He wasn’t just walking along; He was teaching people at the water’s edge.  Then He gets into Simon’s boat, and has him take it out into the lake a bit, so He is better situated to teach the crowd.

 

Afterward, He has Simon go out deeper into the lake and let down his nets.  This doesn’t make sense to Simon, because they hadn’t caught anything all night.  Nevertheless, Jesus already has enough of a track record with Simon that he does it anyway.  This is what happens:

 

They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart.  Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this happen, he knelt down in front of Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t come near me!  I am a sinner.”  Peter and everyone with him were completely surprised at all the fish they had caught.  His partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were surprised too.

Jesus told Simon, “Don’t be afraid!  From now on you will bring in people instead of fish.”  The men pulled their boats up on the shore.  Then they left everything and went with Jesus.  (Luke 5:6-11 CEV)

 

They left everything.  Think about that for a minute.  Think of your job, your family, your house, your friends, your community—everything that makes your life what it is.  Is there anything, or anyone, that could make you leave all of that behind you?

 

If you said no, then consider these words of Jesus:

 

Those who love their father or mother more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers.  Those who love their son or daughter more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers.  Whoever is not willing to carry the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who try to hold on to their lives will give up true life.  Those who give up their lives for me will hold on to true life.  (Matthew 10:37-39 NCV)

 

These fishermen were ready to become man-fishers.  They were expectant, they were vigilant, and they were patient.  And because of this, we are still talking about them 2,000 years later.

 

So what about us?  Are we ready?  Are we willing to drop it all and go fishing?  Does Jesus have enough of a track record with us that we would follow Him wherever He would have us go?

 

If your answer is yes, then it’s time to go fish.

 

Us and Them: Part 5–Nineveh

God displays his heart for the people he created very explicitly in the book of Jonah, my personal favorite in the entire Bible.

 

Most people know about Jonah being swallowed by the whale/big fish, but that’s not really the point of the story.

 

Jonah was on that ship in the first place, because he was (futilely) trying to flee from God.  He was fleeing, because God had told him to go and preach in Nineveh, the Assyrian capital.  In that time, the Ninevites were the ultimate “them” to the Israelites.

 

So after his aquatic incident, God gives Jonah a second chance to preach to Nineveh.  He gives the shortest sermon in history, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned (Jonah 3:4 NIV).”

 

But then, a curious thing happens.  The Ninevites listen!  And REPENT!

 

So Jonah goes up to a high place where he will have a most excellent view of God destroying “them” down in Nineveh.  Except it doesn’t happen, because God has heard their prayers and is giving “them” a second chance.  Jonah, being one of “us” (that is, Israel), has issues with this.  But listen to God’s response:

 

“. . .  Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.  Should I not be concerned about that great city?”  (Jonah 4:11 NIV)

 

Jonah is the only book in the Bible to end with a question.  So what’s the answer?

 

Did you notice the theme in the book of Jonah?  Both Jonah AND the Ninevites get second chances.  God does not show favoritism.  Because he made all of us, to Him, there is only “us.”

 

But here’s the catch.  We have to affirm that Truth.  God is willing to include anyone as “us,” but WE have to accept the invitation.

 

We become part of “us” by laying down our pride, which is the mother of all sin, and the creator of “them.”  We become part of “us” by trusting God with our hearts, our fears, our anxieties, even our bodies.  By submitting our will to His, he responds by meeting all of our needs.

 

Now at this point, we still have a multitude of bad habits to break (Lord knows I do), but we have an example to follow in Jesus.  His perfect love drives out fear, the constant presence of His holy spirit keeps us safe from harm (if we let Him), and if we follow Him faithfully, the hope for our future will play out in front of our eyes, day by day.

 

The key word there was “faithfully.”  We do have a part to play in this transaction.  If we allow ourselves to be polluted by the world (James 1:27), and look to the things and people of this world to meet the needs that only God can, then we will become the “them” that we had despised.

 

The Bible calls “them” sinners.  Here’s the clincher—if you look at other people and see a “them,” you are one of “them.”

 

However, if you look at other people, no matter how different they are from you, and still see an “us,” or at least a potential “us,” then that is a sign that the Holy Spirit is within you, transforming you into the likeness of the Jesus, who being one with the Father, created us to be “us.”

 

Us and Them: Part 3–Need

Now we come to the heart of it.  There really is no “them.”  There is just one big “us.”  We all need the same things, though we need them in different ways.  We need to be loved, we need to feel safe, and we need to know that we have hope for our future.

 

However, whenever we place our trust in worldly things that divide us into “us” and “them,” we will always be disappointed, because our needs will not be met.

 

We won’t feel loved if someone hates us because we hated them first.  We won’t feel safe if we feel that someone is out to get us.  And if we feel neither loved nor safe in the present, then it becomes virtually impossible to have hope for the future.  We become depressed, desperate.  We look for somebody to blame.  So we create a “them.”

 

It doesn’t meet any of our needs to have a “them,” but at least we feel better about ourselves in the moment we are condemning “them.”  We feel better, because if there is a “them,” that means there is an “us.”  And “we” are “one of us.”

 

In other words, we feel like we belong to something.  And belonging is kind of like being loved, right?

 

So next, we want to be safe.  The only way for “us” to be safe is for “us” to protect ourselves against “them.”  Therefore, there needs to be more of “us.”  So we need to tell everybody we meet that if they’re not one of “us,” then they’re one of “them.”  And you don’t want to be one of “them,” do you?  Because if you’re one of “them,” then, well, you’re not one of “us.”

 

Does that sound a lot like the current political climate to you?  Are you as unsatisfied with it as I am?  Well, here’s the reason why.

 

You can pretend that you are loved by creating an artificial sense of belonging to an “us.”  You can pretend that you are safe by surrounding yourself with more of “us.”  Nevertheless, even if you can delude yourself that far, what you can’t do by yourself is fulfill your third need—hope for the future.

 

Enter the politicians.  They play on your first two needs by creating two teams, Republican and Democrat, or if you like, “us” and “them” (or “them” and “us,” depending on which party you belong to).

 

By declaring your party affiliation, you belong.  Then the party to which you belong will remind you that you need to be kept safe from “them,” so that you can have . . . wait for it . . . A HOPE AND A FUTURE!

 

Isn’t that politics in a nutshell?  Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was pure genius in that he distilled the fears of a nation to a single word—“HOPE.”  Then he set down the means of providing hope also to a single word—“CHANGE.”

 

Now before you go beating up on Barack Obama for the HOPE/CHANGE thing, be honest for a minute.  Doesn’t every politician do a variation of the same thing?

 

Obama’s approach was the simplest and most literal, but they all play on the people’s need to have a hope and a future.  The main difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats say the government provides hope for your future, and the Republicans say they provide the means for government to get out of your way so that you can create your own hope and future.

 

Guess what?  They’re both wrong.

 

(OK, so now what?  Come back for Part 4–Love)

 

Us and Them: Part 2–Popping the Bubble

For every “them,” there must be an “us” to balance it.  So instead of seeking Truth, you start seeking people who will agree with you.

 

It’s not that hard to do in this age of technology.  For example, Facebook lets us create an alternate reality where, with canny use of the “hide” feature, everyone in your virtual world thinks you’re brilliant.  You must be, or why would you have so many “likes” on your last post with nobody disagreeing with you?

 

Well of course everybody agrees with you, because you aren’t friends with any of “them.”  Now you have your own custom-designed “us.”

 

Now here’s where this gets especially dangerous for Truthseekers.  As I mentioned before, if you’re busy building your “us,” you have taken your eye off of the truthseeking.

 

Let me put this in the context of Christianity.  Those of you who are Christians, do you spend the majority of your time and energy seeking God or seeking other Christians to build you up and make you feel better about yourself?  Nothing wrong with being built up or feeling good about yourself, but remember that God is the one who builds up and tears down ultimately.

 

You don’t need self-esteem when you know whose you are and in whose image you were created.  Other Christians can sharpen you by challenging you, educating you and edifying you, but I believe that the true tests of Christian character come from interactions with “the world,” which is church-speak for “everyone who’s not a Christian.”

 

Yes, that means we have to be around “them.”  Guess what, Christian?  Before you were one of “us,” you were one of “them.”  Remember?

 

You don’t want to remember, do you?

 

Do it anyway.

 

How old were you when you accepted Christ as not just your savior from sin and death, but as the Lord of your life in the here and now?  Some of you did it as a child, and don’t have many memories of how you were before.

 

I was 33 when I finally closed the deal, so I have a LOT of memories, some of them painfully fresh.  Satan reminds me of them every day, trying to tell me how unworthy I am of God’s grace, which of course backfires on him, because I already KNOW that.  That’s why it’s called grace—because you don’t deserve it.

 

So when attempting to make me beat myself up doesn’t work, Satan reminds me of “them.”

 

Those morons, those degenerates, just LOOK at them!  Flaunting their perversions in broad daylight, acting as if they were the normal ones, tearing “us” down at every opportunity, blindly following Barack Obama like lemmings.

 

Oops, tipped my hand a bit there, didn’t I?

 

But here’s the thing.  I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992.  I fiercely regretted it by 1994, but on election day 1992, I was at the Macon County Courthouse as the election results were pouring in, watching politicians sweat, pace and mutter to themselves.  I looked at my wife, at the 7 ½ months worth of swelling in her belly that would soon come into the world as my first child.  I felt exhilaration, and hope.  Hope for change.  I even briefly considered naming the child Hillary if it was a girl (it wasn’t.)

 

Why did I feel these things, even though there was no logical reason for me to have that hope?  Because I was one of “them.”

 

(So who are “them” really? Come back for Part 3–Need)

 

Us and Them: Part 1–Election Season

 

Election years are a trying time for everybody, but I find them particularly painful.  As a Truthseeker, I am always looking to end arguments by finding the common ground. 

 

Unfortunately, our political process has no interest whatsoever in providing us with that.  Our two-party system virtually guarantees an us-vs.-them mindset.  This can only lead to two things:

 

 1.      Polarization, where everything the other side does is completely evil, so instead of promoting your own ideas, you waste time bashing your opponents by attacking them personally rather than their policies.

2.      When your polls start dropping from the mudslinging, and the public starts to sympathize with your opponent, then you let the pendulum swing back toward the middle and call yourself a “moderate.”  There may be such a thing as an actual moderate, but more often than not, it’s somebody that was once far right or left that has compromised his principles to curry favor with voters whose lives he cares little, if anything, about.

 

A tension that I struggle with all the time, but especially in election season, is the temptation to hate people who disagree with me politically.  The thing is, as a Truthseeker, I generally stay out of the political arena (where truth is seldom, if ever, found). 

 

However, it seems unavoidable in election season that whenever you voice a view, no matter how pure your intentions, whoever is on the receiving end of it is sure to put some kind of political spin on it.  Next thing you know, you’re in an argument.

 

As I have said before, a Truthseeker must never argue.  The minute that we are convinced that we are right and nothing can convince us otherwise, we cut ourselves off from receiving new information.  It could be that the one thing we don’t know is the one thing we need to know to lead us to the truth. 

 

Furthermore, if you become convinced that your limited knowledge is all that you need to know, you will resent anybody who is trying to educate you, because you will have the perception that he is “trying to push his views down your throat.”  Your emotional reaction will be one of hostility. 

 

What will happen next is that you will project your hostility toward that individual in that moment onto the view itself, and by extension, everyone else who holds that view.  That is how you make the election of creating a “them.” 

 

(What happens next? Come back for Part 2–Popping the Bubble)