Sleeping with the Fishes
To the contemporary ear, it sounded like something from The Godfather, but with an ancient twist. Dumped in the ocean with concrete shoes. Left to sleep with the fishes. But, it did not come from the lips of a Sicilian crime boss or a short, stocky hitman. Jesus said it.
“It would better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and drowned in the depths of the sea.”1 Concrete shoes. Sleeping with the fishes. He had moved surprisingly quickly from a gentle moment of encouraging his disciples to be more childlike to a brutal warning of a gruesome end. A gruesome end for the exploiters, abusers and deceivers of children.
His disciples were once again arguing about their own greatness. Self-consumed full of themselves. So, Jesus had a child come and stand among them. Immediately shaking them back into an awareness beyond themselves as they stared into the eyes of innocence and vulnerability. He calls them down from their towers of aggressive, self-assuredness and into peaceful, benevolent trust. In the kingdom of heaven, the uncorrupted soul of a child is honored.
And if you corrupt it, there will be hell to pay. As soon as Jesus himself took his first breath on earth, he was under the threat of violence from men. Children were massacred at the hands of a man who perceived his power was threatened. Threatened by a child. In our violent and savage world, children are indeed innocent victims. They are the casualties of our warring desires.
They are the innocent victims of poverty. The blameless victims of war. They are the orphaned and discarded. They are powerlessly and unknowingly corrupted by those in authority who should know better. Then, they become like us. They become us. For this, we deserve millstones tied around our necks and left to sleep with the fishes.
It all seems so complicated. Politics, foreign policy, healthcare, poverty, education, religion, culture wars… There are no simple answers that provide immediate remedies to our matted, dread-locked societal problems. But, this is where we go wrong and get bogged down. Finding a solution is not the starting point. We begin with finding the appropriate posture.
In the middle of the argument, Jesus invites a child to stand among them and calls them to a childlike ethos. Here, in this innocent, vulnerable, authentic and uncorrupted state, viable, just and generous answers to our most convoluted problems are found.
So pause. Stop the words, the brainstorming, the typing, the inner dialogue. Interrupt the meeting and invite in a child to stand among you. Be reminded not only to approach each other with the essence of a child, but to think deeply about how your words and decisions will ultimately affect the souls of our young. Bring a baby into the elder’s meeting before you decide what to do with the minster. Bring an underprivileged 2nd grader into the booth when you vote on the levy or vouchers. Bring someone’s kids into the board room before you make that policy decision that only benefits the investors.
If we were to lay everything else aside and assess ourselves as individuals, churches, states, and as a human race solely on the state of our children, would we have any case to make before God? We would not. And in act of redeeming grace, He would patiently loose each knot that we have tied from around the necks of our children and slip the millstone necklace slowly over our heads. And rightly so, we will all sleep with the fishes.
1 Matthew 18:6