Confessions of a Closet Christian 25: What Makes A Story Good and Which Story Do We Prefer?

Confessions of a Closet Christian 25: What Makes A Story Good and Which Story Do We Prefer? June 3, 2014

When I hear the word “story”, I think of something epic, adventurous and intriguing.  There’s battle, sport, magic, and romance.  There’s a beginning, middle and end and some sort of conflict.

But when I hear the word “Bible”, all that comes to mind is a heavy brick of a book full of strict rules with harsh and exclusive undertones and overtones.  I don’t instinctively think of the Bible as a “good story”.  I don’t think of it having battles, magic or romance.

But as I read it, it seems like the Israelites are always going to war with someone.  Under God’s protective hand they’re always defeating a neighboring people and thousands of people are dying in the process.  God always seems to be revealing some sort of miracle – a magical experience – to the Israelites, from the parting of the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians to the Walls of Jericho crashing to the sound of trumpets blaring.  And isn’t there always some strapping dude trying to get some beautiful girl, like when Jacob worked seven years for Rachel, but gets stuck with Leah so then he has to work another seven years to get Rachel – the woman he loved.

I mean, the Bible is loaded with adventure.  Then you add in the intrigue with Joseph being sold into slavery by his own brothers, David murdering Uriah to be with Bathsheba and Hosea marrying a prostitute – you have a pretty dramatic tale to tell.

And that’s just the Old Testament!

As in the movie, “Live of Pi”, (spoiler alert), we see a shipwrecked boy with a menagerie of animals, which slowly die until only the boy and the tiger remain.  The narrator tells the tale of him bonding with the deadly tiger and even willing himself to survive in order to care for it.  He describes this encounter with a magical island, enchanted with legions of meerkats and turning poisonous at night.  When the boy finally reaches safety, he’s interviewed and tells of his experience.  And he shares the detailed story of the tiger and the island – neither of which can be found or accounted for.  The reporters insist that he tells them “the true story” – the story that people will believe.  So the boy tells them a story that parallels his own:  the group of animals becomes a group of people who go ballistic on a lifeboat and kill each other off until the boy is the only remaining survivor.  There’s no tiger.  There’s no magical island.  The story is very practical.  Simple.  Believable.

When the narrator is finished recounting his tale, the interviewer asks, “So, THAT’S the true story?”

“Which story do you infer?” the narrator inquires.

“The one with the tiger.” The interviewer admits.

And so it is for Jesus.  It’s easy to believe the story that says that there’s no God looking out for us.  That miracles don’t happen.  That God didn’t send his Son from heaven to live a perfect life and die so that the rest of humanity might be saved.  It’s easy to believe that a story of love, miraculous signs, conspiracy, murder and resurrection never happened.

But which story to we prefer?

The one where all of humanity is offered a Savior, or the one without hope, and everyone is left to fend for themselves?

When I think about what makes a story good, it’s usually because something great happens at the end of the story.  Something redemptive and hopeful comes out of all the suffering that the characters experience.

And so it is with life.  Shouldn’t there be some sort of redemption and hope that comes out of the end of this life that we all trudge through?

And what if the Bible’s story were actually true?

What if we could be redeemed?  What if someone saved us and the rest of humanity and all we had to do was believe that it was true?

The story can have one of two endings.  I guess we just have to ask ourselves, “Which story do I prefer?”

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