We’ve all probably had the experience of traveling away from home but leaving something behind that we meant to bring with us. It might be something as simple as your toothbrush, which can easily be replaced. It could be something much more significant, like leaving your passport behind when you are already at the airport preparing to leave for an international flight. Somethings you cannot leave behind.
In the Gospels, we read the accounts of Jesus calling his first disciples. Some of Jesus’ followers were fishermen. In Matthew 4: 18-20 we read the calling of two brothers, Simon and Andrew: “As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people. Immediately they left their nets and followed him. According to the Gospels, Simon and Andrew, upon hearing Jesus’ invitation to follow him, dropped their nets and immediately followed him. If we are to take these accounts at face value, Simon and Andrew dropped everything to follow Jesus: their livelihoods, their relationships with coworkers and family, and any sense of security. They seemed to leave everything behind.
Jesus still calls us to follow him in a life of discipleship. However, except missionaries who may travel to a foreign country, most of us are not walking away from everything in our lives when following Jesus. Yet, we are called to drop our nets and leave them behind. Now, these nets can symbolize anything that might get in the way of our commitment to Jesus Christ. We might have to leave behind certain attitudes or behaviors. For example, we can’t say yes to Jesus but then keep on living with prejudices about others who might be different than us. We can’t say yes to Jesus and continue riding the gossip train at work. We can’t say yes to Jesus and continue an addiction that is harmful to ourselves and others. No, when we follow Jesus, we have to leave our nets behind.
In inviting us to follow him, Jesus calls for us to make him first in our lives. We cannot regulate Jesus to a distant place in our lives and remain faithful to our calling. Nor can we continue to live in unrepentant sin or continue in sinful behaviors. Our nets must be dropped. While this is not always easy, it is the commitment we make to follow Jesus. Trying to follow Jesus and holding on to our nets can create a mess. The Apostle Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the Romans when he wrote, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Romans 12:1-2) Our sin can easily entangle us, hinder our Christian walk, and drag us down. Holding onto sin can only bring grief and sorrow.
Dropping our nets must also be an everyday action. Each day we will be tempted to compromise our Christian walk by keeping our nets with us. Each morning as we begin a new day, we must seek to leave our nets behind. We all need to confess our sins daily so that Jesus can cleanse us and restore us. Otherwise, we stay entangled in our sin, and we stumble in our sinfulness. Yet, God’s grace is there to help us. We can’t leave our nets behind without God’s grace. Grace enables us to move freely as a follower of Jesus.
We can still exchange our nets for God’s grace. And when God’s grace wraps itself around us, we discover a life that only God could give.