I never liked being told what to do. I recall that when my older brothers would tell me to do or not do something I would often retort “Make me!” All too often they would proceed to do just that. I would be pummelled into submission having to call out “Uncle!” as a sign of my capitulation.
When I read the word “submit” in scripture these experiences colour my understanding of the word. Submission equates to force and humiliation to my inner child/tyrant. I have found that I have to do some adult thinking to properly address such words when I encounter them in scripture.
Paul encourages me to submit to civil authority. In his days, such authorities were not as kindly as they are in our day, but even so he called for submission, in those things which did not explicitly contradict God’s own reign. Our chief allegiance (read submission) is after all to God, and he calls us to a civic submission, even with unfair and godless rulers. While there is room for civil disobedience ala Gandhi or Martin Luther King this exercise ought to be undertaken prayerfully and in full compliance to the Word of God. It ought also to be undertaken with the expectation that the ‘sword’ is not given the state for no reason, and we cannot expect to disobey without consequence.
This week I read Jesus’ call to his disciples for the umpteenth time. “I will make you fishers of men (women boys and girls).” I realized that this too is a call to submission. Jesus’ invites us to an action. That action is, primarily following not fishing. He invites us to walk closely with him, to learn of him. In journeying with Jesus in this submissive relationship of disciple and rabbi we will be changed! In the process of life lived with Jesus, and submission to his lordship, he promises he will do something. He promises us that he will “make” me. The image of a potter springs to mind. He is actively forming the clay and we as the clay are passively being formed or made, in this case into fishers! None of this happens apart from an intimate relationship of yieldedness to Him.
Now 1Peter 3:15 makes more sense. As I set apart Jesus in my heart as Lord I will be ‘made’ into a person who attracts people to ask “What is different about your life?” At this point I have become a fisher! Through intimate obedient communion with him, he has made me a fisher. That these occasions are infrequent is more likely due to my aversion to submission than to any inadequacy on Christ’s part.
So to those who are uncomfortable with a call to be “fishers of men”, take heart. We are called firt and foremost to follow hard after Jesus. He does the ‘making’.