I have been taught a lesson. It relates to something that my husband commented on a few weeks ago. I was looking at Matthew 13:47 & 48, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.” Perhaps it is just the judgmental nature of my flesh, but I took one look at that and thought good and bad, good people and bad people. Easy. It even says the words good and bad, right? I can smell a rotting fish and I have certainly met some in my life. I felt fully qualified to take part in this conversation and perhaps even help fill some baskets, if they happen to be short hands at the end of the age.
So, I started talking to my husband about how this totally makes sense that not all people who claim Christ are really Christians. There have been some really crazy characters who claim all sorts of things that just make you think eternal fire and gnashing of teeth, right? They do it out of some self-enhanced Christian authority. Most people do not claim authority over the word but interpretation. It just makes you sick what can come out of the deceit and corruption of Satan toying with the church and the word of God. So, as you can see…I can get on this soap box.
My husband simply said that he thought of it in terms of the diversity, all of those fish gathered up in one net, in the kingdom of heaven. Oh, that. Yes, that would be a more tolerant and truly beautiful image. It involves no jail time. I have been so moved by what he said. Often in seminary, the people who I really admired put this type of thinking into the word of God; I guess that one could call it compassion. I love that kind of insight. I wish that I could have thought of it. It tells me that my heart is still learning.
He did not just think of that passage in terms of heaven and hell, but the active gathering that is taking place right now. I have been really convicted by it, also. I am somewhat of an introvert, so when I do spend time with people, it is usually a very small circle. I like the same people, but my heart would love to see all of those different kinds of people gathered in the net. I look forward to it.
It came into play yesterday, in a way that was a beautiful picture of diversity, in speech. I am such a stickler for saying the right thing. If I sin, I need to say, “Lord forgive me for…” I do that because I do not want to give myself an out. I am pretty strict with myself with those things. I want to have a heart that is worthy of my King, although it is extremely flawed. I don’t want to ever shortcut heart issues, give myself a break. I have found, the hard way, that heart issues never work that way. So, I was listening to someone pray about forgiveness. You know what? She did not use the right words.
I kept wanting to steer the conversation; to make her say the right phrase. Then it hit me, what she was saying was so beautiful. It was different from what I say, because God has shown me what makes me pull a sin out of my heart and handle it. I turn it over. I look at its parasitic nature. I want to see exactly why it is disgusting, so in contrast to holiness. I ask the Spirit to join with me, not to just leave me alone with this tragic addition to my repertoire. Then I set it down on the steps of Jesus’ throne. I ask Him to take it from me and not let me pick it up again. Sometimes He leaves it on the steps for me to see, just so I really commit to releasing it. Sometimes, I never see it again.
Her words on forgiveness were so heart felt. It was quick and she relied on what she had heard, scripture and conviction. She said God, “It is just not right, I know you don’t like it”. It was someone who recognized by experience that God did not like her situation. I just loved hearing her heart. I started to hope that mine sounded as genuine to the ears of God.
So, I revel in the gathering of these fish. I revel in what it will look like and sound like, the faithful all in one net. The Beloved will be rescued together, finally going home. Until then, I will listen to the words of the many fish. I will soak up the nuances of these women who teach me what spirituality looks like. I hope to be stretched; to search my heart for the most authentic experience possible with Jesus.
Thank you Lord for giving us so many believers to learn from. Thank you for letting your words ring true no matter how they are spoken. Give me a heart open to the diversity of your people today. Let me not be exclusive but inclusive.