What is the Bible? Part Three. Jo’s Encounter; Why Love Matters And How The Bible is The Greatest Story Ever Told
It’s said ‘he who tells the best story wins,’ that the most compelling views of the world are the ones to capture our hearts. Personally, this is why I find the story of Jesus so captivating and the means through which it is told and foretold through the scriptures so fascinating.
Yet ask someone about the church and the story it speaks, and they can more easily tell you what it’s against, rather than what we are for? But this is the question we must answer. If we want to capture hearts – and especially those of a new generation, we will have to learn to tell a better story.
As I see it, one problem is we’ve allowed our faith to be built on proof texts or sound bites. The challenge with this – it doesn’t provide any context and context is everything.
And this is where narrative theology helps.
This is where story comes to our rescue.
We all love stories – stories capture and compel. Who can resist a love story – a tragedy, or a hero movie? Stories draw us in – they educate, inspire, and dig deep into the heart. People will sit and watch box sets back to back – why? Because of the compelling story.
Stories humanise, they give life meaning and purpose – we can champion the hero, boo down the villain – even put ourselves in the key role: ‘The names Bond, James Bond!’
Of the biblical story….
Sadly, we’ve reduced the biblical story so often to an eternity question. Where do you go when you die? Yet Jesus doesn’t ask the disciples if they want to go to heaven but rather, do they want to follow him – in the here and now: to join the revolution.
Do you want to go to heaven and escape hell when you die? Do people really care? The very question lacks existential urgency. Why have we reduced faith to this? I believe it’s because we’ve lost the heart of the story in all its beauty and brilliance. There is no sense of greatness in the message – nothing to draw us out, to pull us along. To remind us we are worth more. We are worth more than the drink we can’t escape; the debt we can’t flee; the job that gets us down – the partner that beats us up. That’s hell. If we want to talk about hell – let’s talk about the hell in Somalia; the hell in the Yemen; the hell in the tiny boats bobbing up and down in the Mediterranean full of immigrants; the hell on the streets of our own city where people have no roof over their heads.
We need to find a better story – and to find a better story we need to live a different life.
Recently my wife Jo was walking past TK Max when a young woman approached her.
‘I’ve been asking all day for help, and no one has stopped.’ She was crying.
‘Please can you help me, I don’t know what I am going to do.’ Jo asks her name and she tells her. ‘And my name is Jo.’
‘I need £18 to get to a hostel,’ the lady says, ‘I don’t know what I am going to do.’
Jo reaches for her purse and gives her ten pounds and then finds another three pounds, and she hugs her.
‘Oh, thank you; thank you – thank you so much.’ The lady replies.
‘I am sure you would do the same if you could.’ says Jo.
‘I would, yes, I would.’
‘Have you been to church? Jo says.
‘I was once desperate, and I cried out to God and I am going to think about it again.’
‘God loves you, and cares for you.’ says Jo.
The lady comes and hugs her, again.
‘Thank you; thank you.’ She says, and with that exchange Jo steps away.
The story is moving and powerful and we all want to be the person that stopped – we all want to be the one who gave the £10. Why? Because the story humanises us. It restores – it speaks of who we really are.
Which is why stories are amazing. They teach us so much.
Some enrich the heart – others, like this next one, expose it.
The Story of David and Bathsheba
David is the king of Israel. He is the top person in the land and has eyes for Bathsheba. He’s spotted her bathing naked on the roof of her home and plans to get her to the palace where they have sex together. When Bathsheba discovers she’s pregnant, David hatches a plan to save his own exposure which involved bringing her husband back from the frontline and allowing him to spend the evening with his wife.
Kind David assumes the two will have sex and the pregnancy will be assumed to be their own. What David doesn’t account for is the integrity of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah who because his fellow soldiers are at war refuses to sleep with her and stays at the entrance to the palace rather than going home. The following day, David invites Uriah to eat with him and gets him drunk – again trying to get him to sleep with his wife and again he refuses.
Finally, David sends Uriah back to fight and instructs the commander to place him in the frontline and then issues an order to retreat leaving Uriah exposed and as a result he is killed.
And then Nathan the prophet turns up and says…
‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
‘Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’
Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!