The Bible is a collection of stories about God’s saving deeds. It is God’s intention that “God’s name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16). God’s name is best proclaimed in telling the stories of God’s saving deeds in human history (Psalm 78:1-8ff.). The ultimate divine saving deed is that of Jesus Christ as expressed in the gospel story. It is in that story—THE story—that I can find a reference point for my little life—MY story.
There have been many works published proving that humans learn in the form of stories. In one such work, To Think, Frank Smith has said, “We must all be born with a sense of story in order to make sense of the world, to provide a basis for experience…When we say we cannot make sense of something, we mean that we cannot find the story in it or make up a story about it…Without stories, there would be no events (!)”(63-64). He goes on to say, “The stories that we construct are not a special way of perceiving the world or of making sense of everything we hear or read. It is the only way we can make sense of the world” (emphasis his 64).
When Jesus was asked in Luke 10, “Who is my neighbor?” he didn’t say, “You must love all with whom you come in contact!” Nor did he say, “I have three points I want to make about loving your neighbor.” Instead, he said, “There was a certain man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…” Jesus preached by telling stories. At the end of the story about the Good Samaritan the lawyer who had asked the original question understood clearly what Jesus was teaching (Luke 10:25-37). I am convinced it is still true among believers and sinners alike,
everyone would rather hear a good story than a laundry list of points or a stern lecture about musts and shoulds.
Frank Smith has said that “the stories that we believe, and that we use as a basis for our own behavior and attitudes, define our identity, the character we play in our personal story of life” (To Think 65). As we read the stories of God’s saving deeds, we can find in them ways to mold our behavior and define our identity as believers. Can the story of Joseph teach us about faithfulness and perseverance? Can the story of Adam and Eve teach us about the perils of temptation and the consequences of wrong choices? Can the story of Moses’ anger and impetuousness teach us about obeying God explicitly and humbling ourselves before God’s will?
I like to think of our hearing the biblical story as a kind of “intersection” of our story with THE story. By making the biblical story the reference point for my little story I discover where I fit in God’s story. My behavior, character, and destiny are altered. By making the biblical story the filter for my little life’s story I remain accountable and responsible. Like a foundation to the building that is my life, the biblical story keeps me truly “grounded” and safe when the winds of the world, the flesh, and the devil blow my way. The more distance we create from the biblical story, the more likely will we succumb to those winds and face ultimate collapse. The tighter we remain connected to the biblical story, our foundation, the greater will be our confidence and security that is found only in an obedient relationship with our Creator as expressed by the biblical story.
A pastor asked a class of Sunday school children, “Who broke down the wall of Jericho?” A boy answered, “Not me, sir!” Upset, the pastor asked the teacher, “Is this typical?” She replied, “I believe this boy is honest, and I really don’t think he did it.” The pastor went to one of the deacons. “I’ve known the boy and the teacher for years, “said the deacon, “and neither of them would do such a thing.” Aghast, the pastor went to the chairman of the church board. “Pastor,” said the chairman, “let’s not make an issue of this. Let’s just pay for the damage and charge it to the upkeep.”
Could we start a new fad in our circles: BIBLE READING and Bible story-telling?! It may sound childish and unsophisticated, but, if so, call me childish and unsophisticated! I want to try to find ways my life’s story intersects with the biblical story. And what a difference it makes! Heard any good stories lately? No? Have I got a book for you!