Recently, my son said to me, “I can’t believe all the money they are spending to roll out the director’s cut of Justice League (a very dismal super hero movie). Instead of spending millions to do that, just think of how many Habitat for Humanity homes could be built.”
This was the first time I’ve heard him acknowledge just how messed up our world is.
Parents try their best to shield their children from the cruelties of life. We make sure they’re safe, fed, clothed, warm, and loved. But, eventually, they encounter a school bully, a mean boss, and a tough setback. Eventually, a loved one dies. Part of growing up is coming to terms with the fact that life is hard; the world is unfair; and that fate can be cruel.
Most of us respond to these sobering truths by raising our defenses, lowering our expectations, and learning to look out for Number One. Do that long enough and you can end up being callous, cynical, and profoundly self-centered or toxically narcissistic. All of which makes the world and this life that much more difficult and inhumane. We are caught in nets from which we cannot escape. But the good news is that Jesus came to change that by changing us.
Few of us are fishermen, but Jesus’ call to his disciples to leave their nets is true for us – because Jesus also calls us to leave our nets. Not the nets used to catch fish, but the nets in which we are caught.
“The time is fulfilled. The hour is at hand. The Kingdom of God is here. Now is the time to live. Repent – release yourself from your old, ensnaring ways. Leave the nets in which you are bound. Follow me. I will give you the best life of all.”
Instead of perpetuating the cycle of violence, forgive. Turn the other cheek. Forgive seventy times seven. Instead of ignoring those who suffer, reinforcing the cruelty of the world, be compassionate. Be generous. Give to the needy. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Tend the sick. Visit prisoners. Love everyone as I love you.
We’re often mystified how the disciples left everything immediately to follow Christ. But that’s what you do when you find your heart’s desire.
The famous southern preacher Tom Long tells of going with a congregation to a retreat he was to lead. As everyone got on buses for the 2 hour ride to the church camp, a rough looking man sat down next to Long and said, “Nice to meet you, brother. Have you been saved? Have you given your life to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?”
Long thought: “This is going to be the longest bus ride of my life.”
But Long confessed that he was wrong. His seatmate said, “I try to tell everyone about Jesus because I grew up in a house filled with hate. My daddy was in the Ku Klux Klan and he taught me to hate blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, gays, immigrants, and just about everybody else. So, I became hateful, too. I was filled with hate. Went to prison because of it. But there Jesus saved me and taught me that I didn’t have to hate anyone. Do you know how wonderful it is to have a heart that is only filled with love? It changed my life. While I was locked up, I became free. I just can’t stop telling everyone about all the good things my Savior has done for me.”
What if God’s purpose is not to take away all our fun, but to show us the way to have true joy? What if Jesus’ call to you today is not to become some starched-collar saint, but to finally become yourself?
We think Jesus’ call is about getting us out of this cruel world and into heaven, but Jesus’ call is actually about getting heaven into us so that this cruel world is no longer the same. After all, that’s what Jesus tells us to pray for: “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What things, idols, habits, resentments, and other entanglements are keeping you caught? What are the nets in which you are ensnared? Jesus calls you – right now – to leave those nets and follow him. Follow him out of despair, hate, and death and into hope, love, and life. Become who God created you to be. Help God transform this world into what God created it to be. That goodness; that grace is here. Let us all respond with an immediate, glad YES.