A Paradox of Opportunity

Friendship Parados MathMark 1:16-20

(See also Matthew 4:18-25)

As Jesus went along the Galilean seashore, he saw brothers Simon and Andrew, fishermen, casting nets in the sea. He said to them, “Follow me and I’ll show you how to capture people’s hearts. Without hesitating, they followed him. A little further on he saw James and John Zebedee in their boat fixing nets. As soon as he saw them, he called them, too. And they left their father and their hired help and followed him.

Both in the calling and the following, there is no hesitation. No second guessing. No “let me think about it for a while and get back to you.” The response to the opportunity is immediate. The moment Jesus sees the people he needs, he calls them. The moment they see the leader they have been looking for, they follow.

According to the Friendship Paradox, “most people have fewer friends than their friends have, on average.” Strange, but mathematically true. It happens, though, because generally speaking, you’re more likely to find and interact regularly with people who are, on average, more socially active. The people who have the most friends are the people who are most outgoing and receptive to new friendships. On the other hand, they, by being more active, are more likely to find less active people – like you and me.

The connection to this story about Jesus calling the first disciples is this: opportunity works the same way. And opportunities expand with the number of people you know.

Finding the right people for your movement doesn’t happen every day, of course. But it certainly won’t happen if you’re not open to the possibilities. You’ve got to be looking. Even when there are other routine things to be done (mending nets). And, if you’re not ready, the people who are looking for the opportunity to be a part of your movement will probably find something else.

But the opposite is also true. The more you look, the more you find.

Strange, but mathematically true.