Again, the story of Jesus walking on water and Peter’s attempt to follow him on those rough seas can be a very powerful metaphor. There are times when following Jesus in working toward a world that is safe, compassionate, and just for everyone is hard. I don’t want to make it sound like it’s harder than it is. But I want to be honest about how difficult, at times, it is. Today, following Jesus means standing up to the winds and waves of racism, White supremacy, Christian nationalism, misogyny, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, economic elitism, classism, ableism, xenophobia, and so many more. And though these societal issues are not directly named in the Jesus story, his story does model the principles of being a source of healing and life in our world when facing those things that do harm. The principles for how we are to respond are laid out in the Jesus story for us to apply in our time and context.
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When we seek to stand up against those things that do harm today the way Jesus stood up to systemic harm in his own society, we can find ourselves outside the boat at times. In those times, our material survival could be seen as impossible as walking on water. This is why in many grassroots communities of Jesus followers working toward some form of liberation the saying is often repeated, “God makes a way out of no way.”
Sometimes following Jesus, making the world a better place, and even surviving economically, socially, or materially feels as impossible as walking on water. But that is what it means to choose to follow Jesus in his work. In moments like this, the words of this beautiful story mean something to me:
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
And when Peter tried to follow, but because of the waves and the wind became afraid and found himself beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” The story says that immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him with the words, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
So this week, let’s be honest. Sometimes following Jesus in working for social change, whether within faith communities or outside of them, can be hard and even feel impossible. When we become afraid. That’s okay. You’re in the right story. Keep doing what you can. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up.
Together, even if at times it feels like we are being called to step out of the boat to walk on water, we are making a way out of no way. Together, we are not alone. We don’t know what tomorrow will hold. But I believe our efforts will pay off.
Herb’s new book, Finding Jesus: A story of a fundamentalist preacher who unexpectedly discovered the social, political, and economic teachings of the Gospels, is now available at Renewed Heart Ministries.