Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Net


… the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.  Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.  This is how it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In his book Kingdom, Grace, Judgment Robert Capon says the original word for net in this parable is sagene, and it shows up only once in the New Testament. Sagene is a net that’s dragged through the water, unselectively gathering everything in its path.  So, too, the kingdom takes in everything.  And hopefully the church, as a visible sign of that kingdom, likewise does not discriminate.
It’s not our business to judge who is wicked and who is righteous.  It’s the fishermen (angels) who will sort the fish, and even then they’ll not be judging.  They'll only be separating according to God who will judge.  Here’s what Capon says about the Last Day:
It occurs… after the general resurrection: every last person who arrives at it arrives in the power of Jesus’ reconciliation.  The judgment, therefore, is first of all the announcement not of vindictiveness but of vindication.  Everyone who comes before the Judge has already been reconciled by the dying and rising of the Judge.  The only sentence to be pronounced, as far as the Judge himself is concerned, is a sentence to life, and life abundant.
It’s only those who want to argue with what Jesus did on the cross who are then pronounced willfully evil.  They’re determined to reject Jesus and his invitation, the offer that’s mercifully given to them despite their rottenness.
Both heaven and hell are populated entirely and only by forgiven sinners.  Hell is just a courtesy for those who insist they want no part of forgiveness.
So to conclude, I understand this to be a parable not about judging between various kinds, but about Jesus accepting all into the kingdom and judging in light of having already reconciled everyone to himself.  If I want to reject it, I can.  But I would rather accept it.

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