There’s a story in the Bible, specifically Mark 1 if you want to read it: Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee when he sees a group of fishermen – Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John – and he says to them, “Follow me.” Now this seems like a strange request. Drop what you’re doing and follow a guy you’ve just met? But the story says that’s just what the four men did.
There were no excuses for why it wasn’t a good time. There were no questions about where they were going. There was no going home to pack a bag and prepare for the journey. Instead, Mark says that Simon and Andrew immediately drop their nets and follow. Likewise, James and John immediately leave their father behind and chase after Jesus. Talk about a leap of faith!
What does it mean for a fisherman to leave his nets behind? For Simon Peter and Andrew and James and John fishing was their livelihood…what they knew…maybe all they knew. It was their way of life…passed down from father to son. It was how they put food on the table and made sure their family was taken care of. And now they’re being called to leave that all behind and follow Jesus into an unknown future. Think about it. They gave up everything to follow Jesus.
I wonder, what do we need to give up…what gets in the way of our relationship with Jesus? For some, it could be an attitude or behavior, or even an addiction. For others, it could be a matter of time or other commitments; maybe it’s just not important enough to them, or, maybe they’ve been hurt by the church and Christians at some point. That happens. There’s a world of things that can get in the way of following Jesus. Like an anchor around our waist, they can drag us down and hold us back. They can make us think we’re worthless, that no one could ever love us. They can steal our confidence and rob us of true joy.
To live a new life, a transformed life, and follow Jesus, we have to leave our old life behind. And in some cases, that means leaving people behind, too. Not all relationships and families are healthy; some can be pretty abusive and toxic. Some can enable us to maintain an old, self-destructive lifestyle. Sometimes we have to put things behind us…even people.
Following Jesus demands radical action. To be transformed by following Jesus…by our relationship with him…and become the new creation we are called to be, you can’t cling to the past…to what’s comfortable…to what’s known. You can’t look back when you’re following Jesus. To follow means focusing on what’s ahead of you, not what’s behind you. So, what do you need to leave behind?