What if we Focus on the Net?
By: Susan Naslund
Fishing nets have been used throughout history as an efficient way to catch large quantities of fish in a short amount of time. Egyptian tomb paintings depict the use of such nets, and they were described in ancient Greek literature. Although the ropes are now made with modern fibers, the nets in use today are not much different from those used in stone age societies. They are made in many shapes and sizes and are used with a variety of techniques, from gently sweeping up fish near the water's surface to harmfully trawling in the deep seas. Good fishermen use nets with great care to haul in their catch.
Fishing nets were even central to at least one New Testament story. After Simon had returned from a lackluster day of fishing, Jesus instructed Simon to again lower his nets deep into the sea. Surely, Simon was an accomplished fisherman who knew when to give up for the day. But, according to this tale, the nets were immediately filled with fish, "straining the nets past capacity."
Of course, in this story Jesus was teaching Simon much more than an effective fishing technique. In response to the extraordinary catch, in Luke 5:11 Jesus said to Simon, "There is nothing to fear. From now on you will be fishing for men and women." From this illustration we are to understand that Jesus was instructing his disciples to share the good news of the gospel so that others might come in huge numbers to God's kingdom, and throughout history, Christians have responded to this call to evangelism in many different ways.
The challenge of the story for us today is to know just how we are to go fishing. Some prefer the line and hook method, reeling in one person at a time. Others believe the right bait is the answer. Still others give up fishing altogether, preferring to let all of the fish swim on their own. I am not very comfortable with any of those options. What if our focus is on the net?
We need to make certain that our nets are not knotted with fear or crafted with lofty speech. Spreading nets made of guilt, condemnation, and intimidation is harmful to everyone and is no way to fish. Rather, our nets should be woven only with love, mercy and compassion. We should cast those nets not in the hope of entangling, but out of heartfelt care for our families and communities. The openings in the grid of ropes should be big enough for people to enter and exit freely, but the interior of the net should be so filled with love, hope and acceptance that no one would ever want to leave. We can be assured that God's holy presence will dwell there. With nets such as these, no one need fear the call to be fishing for men and women.