The Frying Pan Won’t Convert the Fish
Jesus said to [Peter and Andrew], “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” – Matthew 4:19 (NRSV)
Listening to some voices in the church today, we might think that Jesus taught the disciples how to properly bait and hook unbelievers, reeling them in, convincing them to accept Jesus as Personal Lord and Savior to avoid the frying pan of hell.
We find Jesus and the disciples deploying that message and imagery, or anything like it, exactly zero times in the Bible.
Jesus wasn’t about converting people to a different religion based on himself. Jesus was about converting people to a different way of life based on his understanding of Judaism: a life of love, faithfulness, forgiveness, and justice.
That’s why the United Church of Christ evangelizes by modeling his way of inclusive love. For many of us in the UCC, evangelism is marching in a pride parade, supporting those who live outside, hosting a drag queen story hour, creating affordable housing, advocating for voting rights, striving for racial justice.
Why then did Jesus use the imagery of fishing for people? Because he was talking to fisherfolk. If Peter and Andrew were mechanics, he might have called them to go and fix broken systems. If they were physicians, he would have invited them to heal the world. If they were carpenters, he would have called them to be builders of the kin-dom.
Likewise, Jesus doesn’t call us to become something completely different, unless our current occupation does harm to others. Instead, we are called to become more of our authentic selves, more of who the Creator created us to be. The change, or conversion, is the shift from living and working for self alone to living and working for the Creator to benefit all creation.
Catch me, convert me, to who You created me to be.