Friday, October 17, 2008

The Dragnet

It seems that we often become so caught up in theology, interpretation, and doctrine that we often forget the very force behind our faith. How can we forget Jesus? How can we forget the most missional being in existence? I cringe as I write this, but the answer is: very easily. It seems to me that we get so caught up in being "the" true church that we begin worrying and studying matters that have no bearing on what Jesus commanded. We teach the plan of salvation but we don't teach what Jesus, in his limited words left for us, taught.
I caught myself a few months back allowing my desire to be right and able to defend any doctrinal issue with any member of any denomination to forget the very reason that I wanted to become a Christian in the first place. I found myself trying to figure out how to break this cycle and the next thing I know I was knee deep in a study of Christ's parables. It is in these stories of Jesus that the very essence of what this blog is about is set forth. An overwhelming majority of them contain this message: The church is here to be missional.
In no parable is this message passed on more succinctly than the parable of the dragnet. Found in Matthew 13: 47-51(please read these verses, many of us think these parables are the "milk" discussed in 1 Corinthians but to me they are the "meatiest" parts of the Bible), Jesus tells those listening to his voice at the time that the kingdom of heaven (i.e. THE CHURCH) is like a dragnet thrown into the ocean, picking up anything and everything that it crosses. Could Christ have been more specific regarding what He, not Paul, Peter, James, Alexander Campbell, Calvin, C.S. Lewis, but HE, the Lord and Savior, expected from His true church? Christ is telling us to be missional and bring all to Him. Drag the deepest depths and bring them to the shores that His Father created. This is what being missional is all about but sadly Christ somewhat addresses what happens in the church today as this parable continues.
Christ reminds the listeners that once the the dragnet of the fishermen in his parable is filled and it gets to shore that they then sit down and separate the good from the bad. This makes sense right. The fishermen would keep what they can use and can fulfill and sustain them and cast what is useless away. Sadly, this is where I see a disconnect in too many churches with what Christ is teaching here. To be able to understand what I am trying to say here you have to understand that if we placed ourselves in this parable, we aren't the fishermen or the dragnet. We are the fish. Ask yourself how low did the dragnet of the church have to scrape you to shore? Granted, once to shore, or in the church we do serve a dual role, but in the end, we are still the fish. The church as a whole is the dragnet. This misunderstanding or just refusal to obey Christ is what is keeping many churches from becoming missional.
We want to become the sorters. We want to become the ones who pass judgment on who is worthy to be brought to shore. We want to be selective about who we invite to church or to group Bible studies. We all have our selected "buddies" from church that we go out to dinner with because we have decided to go ahead and deem ourselves worthy to stay ashore but those others still have too much work to do. We want to roll our eyes or sigh when the somewhat special needs individual in our church gets his turn to lead the devo on Wednesday night (assuming the church even thinks that he or she wants to be asked to participate in a leadership role in worship of our Lord). To do these things is wrong and is a direct violation of Jesus' teaching.
How do I know? Verse 49. Jesus tells us when his fish will be separated good from bad and it has nothing to do with mankind. Jesus tells us that His angels will do the separating. The angels will separate the evil from the just. This does not mean there will be a separation of the church from the world. In context, Christ is saying that the wicked IN THE CHURCH, will be removed from the just in THAT SAME CHURCH. That is assuming that we haven't already done such a bang-up job of taking care of the angel's duty that this is even needed.
In conclusion I want to make one last point about this parable. Jesus pointed out that the dragnet was not brought to shore until it was full. Christ then uses one of those great Biblical phrases; so it shall be. The dragnet of the church will not be brought to shore until it too is full. Isn't that what being missional is all about? Are we not commanded to be filling up the dragnet that we are caught in at the same time. How can the dragnet ever become full while we are just lure fishing for the kind of fish we want. How can it become full when we keep scaring off the fish? Then again, maybe some are scared of what will happen when it does become full. I know this, if you are truly following Christ's example and commands to be a missional disciple of His, there should be no doubt which vessel you will fall into.

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