One of the things about Stargate SG-1 that always entertained me was the fact that the show never took itself too seriously. That tone was set by a leading character, Jack O'Neill, who loved to go fishing so much that he had a fishing pond installed on his property behind his rustic log cabin home. But because he enjoyed fishing more than he actually enjoyed catching fish, he never had any fish put into the pond. Jack would simply sit there in his lawn chair, with an ice chest full of cold drinks, watching the water and casting his line out every once in a while. I don't think he even used any bait.
When Jesus called the first disciples, he said, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19, NIV). That call extends to all of us who have decided to follow Jesus, but sometimes I think we enjoy fishing for men the way Jack O'Neill enjoyed fishing. We like talking about it. We enjoy feeling like we're fishing. We may even enjoy going through the motions just like Jack enjoyed casting out his line. But at the end of the day, we're more interested in fishing for people than in catching people. You can tell because, like Jack, we don't actually go where the fish are. We stay where we are comfortable, where we can feel like we're fishing, where we might catch something if the fish come to us. But truly fishing means going where the fish are.
Jesus was known as a friend of sinners because he went where the sinners were. Jesus went into the homes of the tax collectors and ate with the prostitutes. He hung out with sinners so much that the religious leaders labeled him a drunkard and a glutton (Mathew 11:19). He wasn't. But Jesus didn't fear being labelled by people who claimed to care about others but really only pushed them away from the kingdom of God (Mathew 23:13-15). Jesus hung out with sinners because he remembered it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick (Mathew 9:12, NIV).
If we want to get serious about fishing for people, we must be willing to go where the fish are. We must be willing to spend time with sinners and hang out with people who don't act like good Christians. And we must be willing to love them the same way Jesus did, accepting them and caring for them without ever glossing over their sin.
Are we fishing for people in order to catch something or are we just going through the motions? Instead of sitting by an empty pond, casting our reels in vain, let's go where the fish are.