EARLEY: Have you told any lies lately?
By Al Earley
Most of us think of ourselves as good and honest people. For example, can you remember the last time you did something bad? Can you remember the last lie you told? Probably not. It is hard to take a good honest look at ourselves. But what if I ask, “Have you ever told a fish story?” Perhaps some half-truths quickly come to mind.
I found this fish story about a town where only one man could catch fish. The game warden asked how he did it. The man invited the game warden to go fishing the next day. In the middle of the lake the man took out a stick of dynamite, lit it, and threw it in the water. After the explosion fish started floating to the top of the water. The man took out a net and started picking up the fish. The game warden told him that this was illegal. The man took out another stick of dynamite and lit it. He then handed it to the game warden and said, “Are you going to fish or talk?”
At first glance, Luke 5:1-11 looks like Peter’s fish story, as two boats are filled to the point of sinking, but actually it is Jesus who makes the catch of the day. I think Jesus has been trying to catch Peter for a couple of days, since the day before Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Next Jesus asks Peter to take him out on the lake so he can preach to the crowd. Who has a front row seat? Peter does. Peter’s like a fish nibbling on the hook, and finally Jesus is about to set the hook, as he says, “Peter, it is time for you to go fishing.”
Now Peter has been fishing all night, and he hasn’t caught a thing. He knows there are no fish, but he relents. Suddenly he gets the biggest catch in Lake Gennesaret history. What does Peter do? He falls on his knees, and confesses, “Lord, I am a sinful man. Please depart from me.” Because of Jesus, Peter takes an honest look at himself, and he realizes how far he has gotten away from God, how dishonest he has been, and he doesn’t like what he sees.
Then Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.” This threw me. Why did he say, “Don’t be afraid?” Have you ever done something mean or cruel, but didn’t realize it was mean or cruel at the time. Perhaps during this long quarantine, you have not been the best parent, spouse, or co-worker you think of yourself as being. We have had to spend a lot more time together, and sometimes that can bring out the worst in us, but we just don’t want to notice.
The day Ron realized how badly he had treated his little brother Frank most of their lives, he experienced a terror that Peter must have felt. And what Ron needed to hear most was, “Don’t be afraid.” For there are few things as scary as confronting the ugly side of ourselves. Everything about the way Ron had treated Frank did not seem to match up with the rest of his life. He had a strong faith, loved to help people, supported his church, and had a good marriage. Ron had not used any of these interpersonal skills with his brother. It took the power of Christ’s forgiveness to give him the courage to do what he knew he had to do: seek forgiveness.
Over the weeks Ron got over his fear, and with God’s help, he told Frank he was sorry for everything. They talked many long hours in the weeks that followed, became close friends, and came to love each other very much. When Ron met with Frank and asked forgiveness both found healing and peace that changed their lives. They will tell you that older brothers and sisters need to understand that the affection, support, encouragement and love of an older sibling is very important to a younger sibling. Today, Ron says, “I have a great brother, but for years I had missed it because of the fear of looking honestly at myself.”
There’s a carpenter out there who is a pretty impressive fisherman, and Jesus is fishing for our souls. Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid to look at yourself honestly.” How is your relationship with your spouse, children, and siblings? Is it time to hear Jesus say, “Don’t be afraid,” and begin asking forgiveness and let Him heal those relationships? What is keeping you from reaching out to those with whom you have a broken relationship? Let Jesus help heal those relationships today.
To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see www.lagrangepres.org.