One of the worst parts of fishing is cleaning your catch. It’s a messy, stinky, dirty job that requires a strong stomach, but someone has to do it. In my family, that someone is usually—well actually always—me.
I’ll never forget the time my wife and I had a successful deep-sea fishing day. It was one of those trips where everything clicked. Fish after fish struck our bait. By the end of the day, our arms ached from fighting and landing dozens of keepers. I was in a fisherman’s paradise—until it came time to clean our catch. Back at the dock, the fun was over and the “reel” work began. Early in His ministry, Jesus invited a few commercial fishermen to trade in their nets, follow Him, and learn how to “fish for people” (Matthew 4:18-22). Most of us aren’t anglers by trade. Still, His call to share the good news with others is our mission as well.
As an avid angler, I know that one of the best things Jesus has taught me about the job of fishing for people is that I don’t have to “clean” my catch. God handles the job of cleaning (1 John 1:9). Yes, I may be called to play the role of encourager or confronter or mentor. At times, I’ve had to mercifully say hard things to those who were young in the faith—speaking the truth in love. But it’s never my job to force anyone to change. Transformation is God’s business.
We sometimes have the firsthand privilege of seeing someone place his or her faith in Christ. But it’s liberating to realize that we don’t bear the responsibility to “clean” them up. Letting go of that burden frees us to help others become the people they were called to be—more like Jesus (Romans 8:29).
What has Jesus taught you about fishing for people? What “cleaning” does God do in people who receive salvation? How do we help people grow in purity and holiness?