Ever wonder why Jesus used fishing in so many of his parables and analogies? He could have chosen donkeys or carpentry, but he stuck with fishing, again and again. Of course, it has something to do with his audience (those disciples were devoted fishermen), but I think it has more to do with the fact that fishing naturally lends itself to comparison with Christianity.
Standing on the river bank, throwing my line in the water, I can’t help but draw some biblical allusions. Last weekend, we went fishing for salmon at our favorite spot up in BC. And there’s nothing like a day of fishing to award you some clarity of mind.
As I patiently cast the line, time and time again, sometimes coming up with nothing, sometimes getting a fish on, only to lose it, and sometimes bringing it safely to shore, I recognized how perseverance plays such a large role in fishing and in the Christian life. After 20 unsuccessful casts, I could have given up and stopped throwing that line in, but I knew that success often came at the 50th cast.
And Paul tells us to have the same attitude in prayer. Even if we can’t see our prayers being answered, even if we’re tired of praying the same things time and time again, we need to persist, ”praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). God promises to hear and answer our prayers (even if that answer is “no”), but the whole point is that we keep praying, to change us, to intercede for others, and to glorify God.
Jesus also recognized the connection between fishing and evangelism. We are to become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). But fishing isn’t as simple as dropping a worm on a hook in the water. There are a lot of different types of fish out there, and they all require different tie-ups. Last weekend, I was fishing for three different types of salmon. The humpies (pinks) seemed to prefer pink colored yarn and beads (2 small ones) with a black hook. And the Chum (dogs) liked either green or purple tie-ups. The Coho (silvers) were the trickiest to catch, and I managed to land a 10 pound fish on a Chum tie-up. But they’re supposed to bite on silver lures.
As with fish, it is with people. When we’re reaching out to young people, we’ve got to use a different “lure” than when we’re reaching out to baby boomers. They all have different tastes. Now, there will be times that one message will cross over between people groups, like when my silver chomped down on my humpy tie-up. But for the most part, it’s good to know your audience and tailor your words to suit them (while sticking to the Truth and the fishery rules). This takes discernment and wisdom. Standing on a street corner, waving a sign about the coming apocalypse might catch a few people, but for the most part, it’s not going to work for everyone else.
On, and the same tie-up won’t necessarily work two days in a row, or different hours in the day for that matter. The clouds will change the color of the water and its reflective abilities, so it’s often wise to try another tie-up if clouds roll in on an otherwise sunny day. These variations make fishing challenging, but they also bring excitement and the thrill of a challenge. And when we’re out to catch people, to tell them the good news about the Truth of the gospel, what worked one day might not work as well on another. If people are in a season of suffering or they’re living on cloud nine, you need to take that into account.
I think I’ll end my fish tales here today, but this is a theme I’ll likely revisit. Spending more time on the river will doubtless yield more insight and comparisons.
Maybe some other fishermen and fisherwomen have similar analogies to share with me. I’d love to hear them!