Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fishing Where They Ain’t

“I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment…” (Philippians 1:9).

I have a friend I fish with now and then. He’s a thoughtful man. After climbing into his waders and boots and gathering his gear around him, he sits on the tailgate of his truck for awhile and scans the river, looking for rising fish. “No use fishing where they ain’t,” he says.

Calls to mind the question: Do I fish for folks where they ain’t?  (And here I define “fishing” as acting and speaking in such a way that others are drawn to the loving-kindness of Jesus.)

Our separation as believers is not horizontal but vertical, not spatial but ethical. We are to be unlike the secular world in our behavior, but squarely in it, as Jesus was. He was “the friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34).

So I ask myself: Do I, like Jesus, have friends that are outside the pale, or am I content to huddle with my good Christian friends? If the latter, I’m fishing  “where they ain’t.”

But fishing is more than just being around non–Christians; it’s also being attentive—like my friend who discerns feeding trout where I don’t: fish tailing for nymphs, or sipping midges off the surface. His senses are exquisitely trained.

Paul writes accordingly, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in…all discernment…” (Philippians 1:9). Paul’s noun, “discernment,” has to do with sense perception—sensitivity to one’s surroundings. (It’s used in one classic source for catching the subtle fragrance of a flower.)

Discernment, in this sense, is heart–kindness that sees beneath the surface of the off-hand remark; it hears the deeper cry of the soul. It asks, “Can you tell me more?” and follows up with compassion and concern. “There is much preaching,” George Herbert says, “in this friendliness.”

Such love is not a natural instinct. It is solely the product of prayer.

And so I pray: “Lord, may I today become aware of the cheerless voice, the weary affect, the down-cast eyes, and all the other marks of weal and woe that I, in my natural insensitivity and self–preoccupation, may easily overlook. May I have the love that springs from and is rooted in Your love that I may love others with discernment.”



gcorron said...

Jesus was a friend to saved tax collectors and sinners. He didn't hang out with them (John 2:24) hoping they would eventually follow him. They came to him to be saved (Mark 2:15, Luke 3:12, Luke 7:29, Luke 19:5-6), or he came to them and commanded them to follow him (Luke 5:27).

We can't be a mini-Jesus to the lost. They have to come to Jesus, not to us. They are not saved through our sympathy and compassion. We may be instrumental in bringing them to Christ, but not by hanging out with them and being super-sensitive to their problems. Jesus told his disciples not to waste their time in that endeavor (Matt 10:14).

Yes, we continue to associate with unbelievers (1 Cor 5:9-10). But we don't form close friendships with them (2 Cor 6:14). Or am I missing something? Can someone give me one example or command from the New Testament that teaches this kind of ongoing friendship, outside the covenant of marriage, with an unbeliever? Anyone?

dskn said...

Thanks Dave for this posting. It's so important to reach out to non-believers. I can't imagine any way to reach them without closely befriending them.
Not every action we are to take requires a Biblical command or verse to make us move or be faithful to the Word. I have family members who are not saved and I will always reach out to them (befriend them as very closely as I can). Some of my very closest friends are non-believers and every time we're together (with no compromise in my walk), they draw closer to their own repentance and acknowledgment of Christ as Savior. I cannot imagine Jesus unhappy about that. Christ lives in me and that is far more than a mini-Jesus to the lost. To Him be the glory forever

gcorron said...

Should we allow ourselves to be convinced by experience or feelings or imagination or friendships, placing that higher than clear biblical teaching? Where does our knowledge come from? This is the most basic choice a Christian must make. Whenever we accept what the Bible teaches, especially when it contradicts our intuition and experience, God is pleased with us. But when we decide that in certain areas, the Bible cannot correct our thinking, it reveals a heart of rebellion. I can give you chapter and verse to make my point, but ...

Jesus said we should be willing to forsake friendships and family for the kingdom of heaven. Maybe he knows something we don't, perhaps that our lost friends influence us more than we imagine that we influence them.

Hunky-Dory? Life is not always "hunky-dory," as David Bowie and my father would say. Jesus agrees: "I did not come to br...