Sunday, June 13, 2004

Fishers of Men

“Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, one of my favorite episodes in the Bible. I’m not exactly sure why this is so. It probably has as much to do with a song I learned in Sunday school as it has to do with any deep understanding of its meaning. Sermon topics can arrive in strange and mysterious ways!

I think we are all meant to be “fishers of men.” I think there should be a quality to us, a quality to our lives that attracts people to seek what we have found. Christians should be different from those in the world, from those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. So we have to ask ourselves this question: Am I different from those who live in the world? To be honest, I would have to answer, “No.” My life is not noticeably different from those who do not follow our Lord Jesus Christ; and if there is no difference in my life, can I truly say that I am following Him?

Look at the response the fishermen make when they are called to follow. Their response shows faith; and it shows obedience. These are two hallmarks of the Christian life. When He calls them, they know Him – they’ve met before. But they haven’t seen any sign; they don’t know the end of the story as we know it – and yet they believe the promise. How do we know they believe? By their obedience. They don’t hesitate or delay; they don’t say, “Hmmm. Interesting idea. Let me think about it, and I’ll let you know.” They leave what they are doing, and follow Him. And they leave everything: country, friends, even their family, to follow Him.

Following Christ is the most important thing we can do; and the call is an urgent one, for we do not know how much time remains. Yet we do not follow; our lives are not different from those in the world. We have the same cares, the same fears; and all too often, we respond to these situations and circumstances in the same ways as do the pagans. When called, the disciples believed, and followed. They believed; and so we must ask ourselves, “What keeps me from believing?” The disciples left everything; we are called to leave only our evil habits. If we were to do so; if we were to truly leave our evil habits, our slavery to the passions – if we were to leave pride and anger and hatred and jealousy and lust and laziness and envy and gluttony, and follow our Lord Jesus Christ, wouldn’t we be different? We’d each be transformed, a different person – a difference that others could see; and they’d wonder, how did we do it? What secret do we know that makes it possible for us to smile in the midst of adversity, to be strong when others are weak, to endure what others cannot bear, to be at peace in times of turmoil? And some would ask, and we could tell them of our Lord; and others would follow us, even here, to the Church, and find the same blessing, the same treasure, that we have been blessed to receive – and they will be caught in the net of the Gospel, and we will indeed become “fishers of men.”

So, how do we follow? You already know the answer: by prayer, and fasting; by giving alms; by struggling to uproot your passions, planting in their place the opposite virtues. We follow by embracing and living the way of life of our Orthodox faith.

Brothers and sisters: our Lord Jesus calls to each one of us. “Come, follow me; and I will make you fishers of men.”