Getting the Story Right
It is confession time. It has been almost 40 years and I feel compelled to finally confess this sin. I feel like it is the right thing to do. I need to clear my conscience and free those who were wrongly accused. So here goes.
In my teens there were times when I did things which I know where not right and certainly not pleasing to my parents. Sometimes others suffered from my sins. This account is one of those times. By the way I am not proud of this and certainly not proud of the things I did. This event involved one of my sisters. This is a sister I dearly love today but recognize that she took a punishment from my parents for a crime she did not commit. I remember the story this way. Somehow, I came across one of those phone numbers that when you call it you would hear a recorded message that in this case was not very wholesome. As I was listening on the phone(for those too young to remember, this was a time when we had no cell phones and people could pick up and hear conversations on another phone in the house) my father pick up the other line. I immediately knew I was in big trouble. The next moment I heard him roar from across the house with his booming voice. He wanted to know who was on the phone. At this point in the story my memory gets real vague. I am not sure if I told my dad that it was my sister, or he simply assumed it was her. Regardless I did nothing to change his mind. All I know is the punishment that I deserved, she received. My dad had the details right. One of his kids was doing something they should not have been doing. The result of this is that one of his kids would be punished. My sister received the punishment. He had the details right but the story wrong. This is where I must say to my sister I am sorry. I hope in your heart you can forgive me.
Details do not always equate to a correct story. Case in point is how we might understand the Bible. Christopher J.H. Wright in his book The Mission of God says, “Down through the centuries it would probably be fair to say that Christians have been good at their messianic reading of the Old Testament but inadequate (and sometimes utterly blind) at their missional reading of it.” What Wright has observed is that we have been really good at the details about seeing Jesus in the Old Testament but have not been so good at understanding the story the Old Testament is trying to tell or the story the Bible is trying to tell. For many the references of Jesus in the Old Testament have simply been used as a proof texts that Jesus in the New Testament was the Son of God. Now certainly this has some truth to it, but it is not really the story the Bible is trying to tell.
The creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 is another example in which sometimes Christians have had the right details but the wrong story. Most of the time when I hear people talk about the creation account it is simply being used for an argument for God’s existence, or a debate about young earth verses old earth. Unfortunately, these arguments cause us to miss the story the Bible is trying to tell about creation and about God. Maybe one of the most misunderstood details of the Bible is that of Heaven. Most Western Christians view of Heaven has been shaped more by Plato, and the age of enlightenment than by the real story the Bible is trying to tell us about Heaven and the future life of humanity.
I hope by now I have at least peaked your interest. You may think that this is not a very important issue. Do not be fooled it is critically important. The Bible is first and foremost a story. Not just any story but God’s story. Understanding the story is not simply important but it is essential. Those who have misunderstood the story of the Bible have created a religion that looks more like the cultures they live in or have created a religion shaped more in their image than in the image of God. The story you believe is the story you will participate in. Our belief in what we believe the story is telling us shapes and directs how we act and live. The misunderstanding of the Story has tragically resulted in such horrific things such as the Crusades, the promotion of slavery, the massacre of Indians, and the holocaust of Jews. Getting the story right is important.
Over the next month and leading into Easter I plan to explore the story the Bible is telling us both on this blog and also through sermons preached at Agape Christian Church. I hope you will join me in the discussion.