Cleaning the Fish
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘ and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” So goes the story, told in Matthew 4:19, that sets the career course of all Christians—to be fishers of men. It is an important job leading others to Christ.
While it is an important job to bring others on board and into a relationship with Jesus Christ, it is just as important to remember that those we bring into the boat—those who were essentially drowning—are going to be covered with seaweed, fish guts, and whatever else may have been floating in the brine. In short, they are going to be a bit stinky. And, the ones who have been out there in the deep sea for awhile, may be downright offensive. But, we need to remember that our main priority is to get them into the boat, not to clean them up (we were all sardines at one time in our life).
Our job, as Christians, is not to judge others for their coarse language, their eccentric style of dress, habits that may not be healthy or appealing to us, or their lack of spiritual maturity; sometimes it is just a difference of opinion, anyway. If we are to maintain peace and order in the Body of Christ, we must not be too quick to cause conflict by banging the gavel on someone’s fingers—especially on new believers.
That does not mean that we can’t identify sin in someone’s life, calling it what it is and admonishing them in love. However, we must remember that it is not our place to judge the person. Often times, the difference between right and wrong is clearly defined in scripture; yet, at other times it may not be quite so clear—conviction may be more on a personal level (at all times, however, disobedience is wrong, and it is sin). Consider Romans 14:1-4, that says, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
The fact is that there are too many issues today where Christians remain at odds, often leading to bitter conflict within churches, and general quarreling among believers. Imagine the kind of harm that this does to the testimony of the church. We have pretty much done to the church what politics has done to our country. We line people up on one side of the line or the other—stuck up prudes get to line up on the conservative side, while the indulgent, worldly people can line up with liberals. Making these rash generalizations is not the proper way to respond to our differences. More often than not, we are only trying to protect our own opinions anyway.
We need to accept that God will convict each one of us in His time. For some, the Spirit convicts their habit of smoking cigarettes, or chewing tobacco; for others it may be gossip; still others He may address their issues with watching too much TV. Each of these can be harmful, but God does not deal with everyone in the same time frame. He will clean each of us in time, but none of us has the right to tell God when the time is right in someone else’s life.
We must be supportive of new believers— praying for them, and encouraging them in the Lord. Maturity and obedience are not instantaneous at the time of Salvation. Maturity takes time and it takes the loving commitment of a mature believer to lead a new believer down the road to righteousness. Each of us came to God as babes in Christ; those we pull into the boat from the turbulent seas of life are no different. Let’s just remember that we are called to catch the fish; God will clean them up.
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