A fish out of water


Jesus said that our Father in heaven is merciful.  We are so in need of mercy and so we seek and we find the Father of mercy. The same Father that met the prodigal son also meets us. The Orthodox pray for mercy all the time. After every petition and prayer, we pray, “Lord have mercy,” and we ask in faith because He is indeed full of mercy.

Tertullian said that Christians are like little fish, born in water, and safe only by staying in water.” Baptism is not a one-time event. It is water in which we swim and which gives us life. If we live outside of our baptism, we are like fish out of water.

Though I like to fish in the ocean, it’s always tough to watch a fish pulled from the water. They gasp and flap around totally helpless and in shock. And you and I are exactly the same if we allow ourselves to be pulled from the life-giving water of Baptism.

Our enemies work constantly to find the hook that will draw us out of this water. How does this happen? As always, the Master gives us some examples in Luke, Chapter 6.

The first hook is judgment and condemnation. If God is mercy and the water of Baptism in which we swim is mercy, then how is it possible for the fish to be so merciless as to both judge and condemn anyone? The Lord shows how ridiculous this is – “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye?”  When I judge and condemn, basically I’m saying that I am finished with myself and now I have time to focus on the sins of others. In fact, the plank in still in my eye and the sins of others is like a speck by comparison. When I am judgmental, I am a fish out of the water,  flopping around and gasping for breath.

The second hook is pride. The Lord said, “When someone strikes you on one cheek, offer them the other.”  Is he kidding? I’m no wimp. Do you know what it would mean to my male ego to just turn the other cheek?  And when people hate me and say all kinds of bad things about me, well then, I’ll see that they get theirs.  I’m a fish out of water. Christ took all blows to His body and blessed his torturers. The God of mercy was evil spoken of, but blessed instead of cursed his critics. He did more than offer the other cheek and he did it all because he is merciful. Even in crucifixion, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” My pride pulls me and I am a fish out of water.

The third hook is greed.  Jesus said, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them back again…do good and lend expecting nothing in return.”  I don’t know. My response is “God bless the child that’s got his own.” No one had better take my stuff without asking and it better be returned in good order. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that God causes the rain to fall on the fields of the just and the wicked. He is benevolent to friends and enemies alike even when he knows they will give nothing back. Above all, He gave His only Son to die for all including God’s enemies, and He gave this precious gift to us freely. Well, not me. I only loan to friends, and even then, I want it back with interest.  I expect that what I give is to be given back. Give to enemies, expecting nothing? Jesus has  to be kidding.  I am a fish out of water.

I believe myself to be kind, considerate, and well-meaning. However, when I make enemies (and I do), the fishhooks come out. I feel justified to judge, condemn, and belittle anyone who I consider to be an adversary.

This is not the way of the Father of mercy. While we were the enemies of God, he did not condemn us, but sent his Son into the world to save it. Since we swim in the waters of his grace and forgiveness, then we must forgive and even more, love our enemies.

The Master told us that since God is merciful, we should be like our Father. A child of God swims in the life giving waters of mercy and never dares to leave it. But what if we got hooked and find ourselves flopping on the ground and gasping for mercy?  Confession and repentance.  When we confess our sins, our baptism is renewed and we are once again swimming in the waters of mercy.

My name is Moses. It means “drawn from water.”  It has a good meaning, but as I consider this blog, maybe I need a name change.

Swim, my friends, swim in this water.  Don’t get hooked by things like judgment, condemnation, greed, and unforgiveness (there are other hooks, of course).  If you get hooked, you’ll be a fish out of water.

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