On May 30th, 2003, one of the greatest animated films to ever be made came into theaters. Finding Nemo became a generational sensation from the very opening weekend and still rests easily in the list of the top ten grossing animated films of all time. Finding Nemo was a worldwide phenomenon raking in $940,335,536 and four Academy Award nominations. The beautiful story of a father searching for his son that was lost and overcoming insurmountable odds to see once again his baby boy hit the hearts of millions and millions of people. The audience made a connection with Marlin, one of the most frightened, scared, and overprotective parents ever, who decided to leave his coral reef and launch himself into a journey unlike any other. He did it all for the child he loved, his only son, the only family he had left. This emotionally charged plot is what makes this one of the greatest animated movies ever made.
If you have seen the movie, you know that Nemo decided to leave the Great Barrier Reef and go touch the boat out in the distance with his fin, after his father blatantly tells him not to. As soon as he touches the boat, a scuba diver captures him and takes him away. His father, Marlin, who is beside himself begins swimming deliriously, frantically, and as hard as possible for a tiny clown fish towards the boat, just to see the boat get further and further away until he could no longer see it. For a moment, Marlin is completely alone, with no one. He had lost his wife years before, he had lost the rest of his children, and now he had lost the only thing he had left, his son, Nemo.
I want you to imagine for a moment that Marlin looked off into the deep blue ocean before him, and thought to himself, “Ahhhh…that’s a shame…guess I’ll just go back to my anemone and live the rest of my life alone.” What if instead of deciding to go and SAVE Nemo, he decided to FORGET Nemo? What if he decided that the obstacles would be too great, the odds would be too overwhelming, the probability was too far out of his favor, and that there was no way that he, a simple, tiny clownfish, could find Nemo? Well I can tell you one thing, it would not have been nominated for four Academy Awards, would not have made almost a billion dollars, and at the end of the day, probably would have never made it out of production before everyone realized this movie is going to be TERRIBLE!
You see, that would never have been made into a movie; no one would ever come into Pixar or Disney and get a second meeting with an idea like that. Though this might seem a bit ridiculous to read, each of us is guilty of living out this terrible movie idea. Finding Nemo is only a great movie because of the outcome, because Marlin triumphs in his retrieval of his son, because that which was lost, is found. It is only a great movie because Marlin WENT AFTER his son that was lost. If any of those things had not happened, this would not have been a movie, it would not have become a staple in the movie cabinets of every child’s home in America, and we would not be talking about it now. If Marlin had not gone after Nemo, and never found Nemo…it would be a terrible story.
Are we not guilty of Forgetting Nemo? No not Nemo the movie character, not the cute little clownfish with a banged-up fin, not that Nemo…are we guilty of forgetting the lost people all around us? I am afraid that too many of us are so content in our church buildings hearing great lessons, forming great friendships, relationships, and having a fantastic life, that we forget there are lost people all around us. I fear there are way too many Mr. Rays, Nemo’s friends, and other fish on the Great Barrier Reef that are content with losing Nemo. I wish there were more Marlins who were willing to save the lost no matter the cost, that there were people willing to do whatever it took to bring the lost to Jesus. How much did Nemo’s teacher, Mr. Ray, really care about him? How much did his friends care about him? Though they were in Nemo’s life and saw him every single day, when he needed them most, they abandoned him. What is the difference in us? When we see the same people day in, and day out who need us to bring them to the Lord, but we decide to go about our lives? How much do we actually CARE about the lost?
Consider Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18:12-14, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Is there not a temptation as a church to look at the ninety-nine who are still faithful and rejoice thinking, “Yay! We still have ninety-nine worshippers who are still with us!”? When Jesus is saying, heaven rejoices over the one who is brought back more than over the ninety-nine who need no repentance.
If Marlin had looked out into that deep-blue ocean and just said, “Well that’s a shame,” it would have been the worst story of all time. Every single one of us has been guilty at one time or the other of looking out into the vast sea of lost in our communities deciding to say, “Well that’s a shame.” It is a shame. It is a shame that so many of us are guilty of forgetting Nemo, instead of finding him. Why do we so often fall into this category? I believe it is because forgetting Nemo is far easier than finding him. Because not talking to that friend about what Jesus has done in my life is easier than letting that friend know what Jesus can do in their life. Because if I do not talk to them maybe, they will not think that I am judgmental. Maybe if I do not talk to them, I can go about my life in the same group of people, talking to the same people, building relationships with the same people, and living my life in my same congregation. If I decide to forget Nemo, then I never have to step out of my comfort zone, and never have to abandon my complacency.
We can act as if religion and faith is our life, but if at the end of the day our faith and religion never push us to leave the church building and go out and spread the Gospel…I am afraid we might have missed the point of why we are here. God has established the local church to be a beacon of light to the lost, a city set on a hill, to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness! There is a lot to learn from a couple of little animated clownfish intended for children. It is my hope that the message that is understood by children is not lost by us adults as we look out into the sea of lost people around us each day. A common phrase that is said throughout the movie is, “Just keep swimming.” It is my prayer that we will have Christians that no matter the obstacle will continually just keep seeking, just keep searching, and just keep teaching the lost about our Savior.
– Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism