Recently in a religious education class, we were discussing the call of the first disciples from the Gospel according to Mark. As part of the lesson, we did an activity with the children using a net – “fishing.” The net had just landed on one of the boys so it was his turn to say why he wanted to follow Jesus.
After a brief pause, Jack took the net into his hands and responded, “To be accepted and to be loved.” He smiled and then said, “I want to be a follower of Jesus because I want to be accepted and loved, and I want to be a better person.” The expression on his face and the tone of his voice as he said these words was so moving.
Although days have passed since leading this religious education activity, I find myself coming back to Jack’s words. “I want to be a follower of Jesus because I want to be accepted and to be loved and to be a better person.” I still find the purity in his response so striking…so precious.
However, I am mindful that as time goes on and Jack advances in age, it is likely that he will experience rejection, and possibly hatred, and there will probably be days when he is not the best person he can be. I can’t help but wonder, will he remember Jesus in these moments? I pray and hope that he will.
As I sit with this, I think about what a noble pursuit it is to be (or to try to be) a follower of Jesus, especially in the times we live in, and with all that is happening in the world. A pursuit that has, for sure, become increasingly challenging since I was a child. It’s like swimming against the tide, day after day. The distractions are many and, on my own, it’s entirely impossible.
But then I think, “It’s a good thing I am not on my own.” That’s the best part of being a follower of Jesus. With Jesus, I am never on my own. And, as Jack so aptly put it, I am accepted and loved, and a better person for it.
When Jesus said, “Come…,” to the disciples, they did exactly that. They took a leap of faith and ventured into a new way of being. This isn’t to say that they didn’t make mistakes along the way or possibly have misgivings at times. I imagine that they did, and even more so, than is probably spoken of in the Bible. However, they saw Jesus as being sent by God and they were able to trust Jesus enough to step away from the familiar and walk, by faith, into the unknown.
Jesus called the disciples as they were. They were on two different boats, Simon and Andrew casting their nets, and James and John mending their nets. He didn’t say, “Go, clean up, and then come follow me.” He loved and accepted them as they were and was calling them to enter into His fold as they were.
Now, undoubtedly their lives were changed by following Jesus, they themselves were changed, and in the process they each became a better person. I believe that it was Jesus love and acceptance of the disciples, and countless others, without reservation, that enabled them to open their hearts to Him. And, with time, to learn, and to embrace, His ways.
How different the world might be if we were able to extend the same hospitality of love, acceptance, and patience to each person and situation we encounter along the way. A difficult task at best, given the human condition, but not impossible…”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The Call of the First Disciples.
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.