What qualifies any human being to become a disciple of Jesus? Likely, it's not what you're thinking! Read on as my friend, Leslie Leyland Fields, hooks us and then trails us to a powerful truth.
Why Our Sin Makes Us Perfect for God
By Leslie Leyland Fields
I spent yesterday in a half fetal position, crabbed fingers on the keyboard, hacking out an essay due that day. I didn't even make time to read God's Word, which is Life itself to me.
I fall SO short every day. What kind of follower of Christ am I, anyway? I feel more like a wanderer than a follower on so many days! How can God possibly want me?
I have heard this voice long enough now to know: While this could be the voice of the enemy, in my life I've learned it is more often the Voice of truth. But it's not the only voice. In these moments and hours of flagellating honesty, I remember those guys out in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. Something happens there that keeps me going, that turns my mess (and yours) into perfection.
It's a lost night. An empty night. All through the hours of dark these four men are working the nets. But by morning they haven't caught a single minnow. How perfect, Peter thinks with a twist of his lips. These empty nets mirror my own soul: vacant.
But a man shows up, and tells the discouraged fishermen to throw their net on the wrong side of the boat at the wrong time of day. And you remember what happens - the net explodes with fish! Simon can't contain himself. His fishiest wildest dreams have come true!! He throws himself at the nets, arm and shoulder deep into fish now as he scoops them, writhing, into the boat. But suddenly Simon stops. He looks up at this man in the boat with him, who is smiling widely. How did this rabbi know this was his biggest dream, to catch a boatload of fish like this?
His heart is so full and tight he knows it will split, like the nets. He steps toward Jesus and falls, his body now in the mass of thrashing fish. "You must go!" He is crying. He hates these fish now. This man. Who is he, then? How did he see that school of fish there when nobody else did?
Simon knew this lake, the way the fish moved during the various seasons. Can it be possible that this man is master over these elements instead of him? Or - maybe he sent the fish? That couldn't be possible. Simon's gut goes tight and in a flash he sees the rot in his own heart. He is repulsed, then the truest words he's ever spoken spill out: "Go, leave me, Lord! I'm full of sin! Please, go!" Simon must send Jesus away. He is too unworthy for his attention, for even his Presence.
And here is what we cannot miss: These terrified words of confession are exactly what qualifies him to be a disciple. He doesn't have to be a brilliant student of the Torah. He doesn't have to be a happy man or even a good man. He doesn't even have to be a successful fisherman. In fact, his work that night was utterly futile. All he needs is to see Jesus, to truly see him. After that, all he needs is to know his need.
Then the comfort and invitation comes, "Don't be afraid. Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of people."
Jesus is going to plant his Church, his very body through these scaly fishermen, and it begins here, with those words, "I'm a sinful man!"
That's our dark truth too. Don't we know our own black hearts? Then come on down, sister! Join this boatload of outlaws! Seeing our sin makes us perfect for God. But we can't stop there. We have to say Yes to the next part ...
"Don't be afraid. Come, follow after me!"
Leslie Leyland Fields feels a great kinship with the first disciples: she lives in Kodiak Alaska where she commercial salmon fishes with her family. Her tenth and most recent book, Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas won Christianity Today's Book of the Year in Christian Living. Her other award-winning books include Surviving the Island of Grace, and Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers. She travels and speaks nationally and internationally, and each fall she hosts the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop on her Alaskan island with such writers as Phillip Yancey and Ann Voskamp. Find her online at leslieleylandfields.com.