The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.
A colleague shared an anecdote about transporting koi fish with me yesterday. She said that a long time ago koi would always arrive weak, dying, or dead. It was reasoned that the fish had no reason to move while being transported and so their muscles grew soft and they wasted away. The solution, she said, was to add one piranha in the tank with the koi to keep them swimming. The idea is that koi fish and people need others who scare us a little bit to keep us sharp and on our toes.
It’s a great story. However, as I set about looking to confirm it, I came up short. It turns out adding a piranha to a tank of koi is, maybe unsurprisingly, a very bad idea. Even the koi the piranha doesn’t kill for sport would experience incredible stress leading to sickness and death simply from sharing the water with such a fearsome predator.
Even as this extreme example seems unlikely, it is certainly true that ecosystems rely on a healthy mix of predator and prey. Just look at what has happened to deer (and tick) populations in New Jersey as more forests and farms have turned to housing and deer have grown docile and comfortable around people. We need to stay on our toes and, more importantly, stay close together and aware of one another.
Sometimes we think our world will be better if we just get rid of all the bad people. Maybe we can just separate ourselves from people who think differently from ourselves and surround ourselves with people who think as we do and finally find peace. I don’t know. The record of utopian communities is pretty poor. Jesus invited his disciples, apostles, and even you and me today into a different, expansive vision of community rooted in a commitment to love God and one another, fully, as we actually are.
If we truly believe “iron sharpens iron,” we can accept that the solution to living together in harmony isn’t separation or segregation. Maybe it looks like a culture in which each person is respected, heard, and accepted in his or her strength and also in his or her difference. Maybe the koi don’t need piranhas in the tank. Other complementary species could certainly share the water together, however. We don’t grow, individually or in community, without gaining perspective through dialogue. Whether koi or piranha, clown fish or blue tang, or simply people making sense of this complicated world, may God give us the strength to just keep swimming, together.
Grace and Peace,