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Soldiers With Fishing Poles


“When we don’t fish, we fight.” I remember reading an article that used this illustration about thirty years ago. It was about some men who went on a fishing trip but were not able to fish because of the weather. So they had to be with each other day and night. They got on each other’s nerves and bickered with each other. As the story ended, the author pointed out that this is what happens whenChristians are not “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19).

This happens in the church. Some members do nothing to evangelize. They are like children at home from school. They fuss when they are not doing anything. Church members get into each other’s business and gossip. They argue over matters of opinion. They make big issues over little things. Members who are busy teaching others and trying to convert the lost have no time for such things.

But like almost any illustration, this analogy can be taken too far. I have heard preachers say things like this: “If we keep the water stirring in the baptistry we won’t have time to fight with each other.” They were talking about controversial matters in the church like divorce and remarriage, social drinking, and women preachers. The implication is that we should ignore these issues and work on baptizing people.

Nobody fished for men like Jesus. Yet He argued with the scribes and Pharisees about the Sabbath law (Matt. 12:1-8), Jewish traditions (Matt. 15:1-9), divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19:1-9), paying taxes (Matt. 22:15-21) and the resurrection (Matt. 22:23-32). The One who first used the illustration of fishing for men fought the good fight of faith. He had a sword and a net for fishing.

Who worked harder at fishing for men than the apostle Paul? He was the great apostle to the Gentiles, the man who did more mission work than all the rest. He was truly a fisher of men. But a person would have to ignore a great deal of what he wrote to say that is all he did. Paul contended with people inside as well as outside the church. The books of I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, I Timothy and others are full of doctrinal controversy in the church.

Our work as Christians is both offensive and defensive. It involves building and tearing down. The Jews built the wall and “with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other hand held a weapon” (Neh. 4:17). We need to carry a fishing pole, but we must not forget the sword (Eph. 6:17).

Kerry

West End church of Christ, April 28, 2024

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