What Kind of Net Do We Use?
What Kind of Net Do We Use? Luke 5:1-11
“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” This is what Jesus says to Simon, James and John when he calls them to be his followers. The reference Jesus is making is to their work as fishermen. They have been used to catching fish. Now Jesus is saying they are going to be catching people.
Earlier in the story Simon, James and John have thrown out their nets at the request of Jesus and hauled in a whole bunch of fish. So I would assume that when Jesus tells them they will be catching people he is making a comparison to how fish are caught in a net. I’m not sure I really like this comparison because of the imagery it brings to mind. The picture is of many crowded fish thrashing around, struggling to get out of the net they are trapped in. In modern day fishing, especially, all kinds of creatures get got in the net besides the fish that will be caught and sold. These animals, such as dolphins, become innocent victims of the net. Is this what Jesus had in mind when he tells his followers they will be catching people? Did he mean that they would be ensnaring them in a trap?
I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind as he uses the metaphor, but that could be an image that gets evoked when using that kind of language. Perhaps another kind of net might be more appropriate than the net of a fisherman. This is the Life Safety Net. Invented in the late 1800’s, these kinds of nets were used until the 1970’s by fire departments in an attempt to save people stuck in multiple story buildings with no way to get out when they caught on fire. The idea was that a circle of people would hold the net while the person in the building would jump out. Those holding the Life Safety Net would then attempt to catch them. While it had mixed success there are stories of people being saved by such devices.
I think Jesus would have liked the image of this kind of net when it came to catching people. This image is one of invitation to leave a desperate situation to fall into the arms of those who would want to help you. Is this the kind of net we are called to use—one that does not ensnare or trap people, but one that saves them? What kind of spiritual nets can we use to help those who are in trouble? Are a comforting presence, physical assistance, or a listening ear different kinds of Life Safety Nets? Is this how the followers of Jesus are to try and catch people when they fall?
-Pastor Erik Goehner