Everyone loves stories. In the United States, we spend billions of dollars creating and consuming movies, music, and books each year. It’s not just Americans that are interested in stories, every culture on Earth passes along knowledge through storytelling traditions. We are wired to love and appreciate the past, present, and future through the experiences of others.
The gospel drips with this same inspiration. We are intended to proclaim it through the history of redemption. We do not shy away from Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. The details are explicit and excruciating at times. Christ was born into a broken world through a young girl whose lineage included murderers, prostitutes, and polygamists. He grew up in a working-class family. When he grew older, Jesus lived a transient lifestyle and communed almost exclusively with social outcasts. He loved everyone regardless of their situation, and was brutally sacrificed in the most horrid form of execution known to man in his time.
There is a TED talk by a researcher named Brene Brown on the subject of vulnerability that has been on my mind recently. In this talk, she points out people that she calls “whole-hearted”. She indicates that the people in her research who seemed to be really well connected to others in a way that improves the world around them are inherently courageous. These are people who are unafraid to step into potentially messy relationships, pressing into the discomfort, even if they know there is no guarantee that it will end well.
Everyone experiences pain, betrayal, love, oscillating emotions, and death. These are things that no man escapes in this life until Christ so chooses to return. So why are we tempted to paint spotless facades in our narratives and testimonies, as if we were never brought from darkness into the light?
In the same way that the gospel is communicated through challenging scriptures, we must honestly communicate the gospel through stories of people dealing with with real struggles and pain. While it is a nice escape to venture into idyllic worlds like those in Thomas Kinkade paintings, we must recognize that the fall did actually happen and all of creation groans under the weight of sin and death.
C.H. Spurgeon, preaching on Romans 8:22, concluded his sermon by telling us how followers of Jesus should relate to this world: “A Christian’s experience is like a rainbow, made up of drops of the griefs of earth, and beams of the bliss of heaven. It is a checkered scene, a garment of many colours. He is sometimes in the light and sometimes in the dark.”
If we hope to show the world Christ through gospel storytelling, we must speak into the context of this world, and this includes dealing with messy, uncomfortable, and sometimes taboo topics. We must shine the light of Christ into the darkness with our storytelling and show the world authentic narratives. Our stories should relate the gospel in the same way Jesus did, moving in and among the messiness of this world. We should sit with people in the middle of their sin, and show them how the gospel gives us hope even when we were dead in our trespasses.
Let us tell excellent stories of hope, let us encourage one another towards gospel action, let us stir affections through the power of the Holy Spirit to praise God for who he is and what he has done. Let us do so even in the middle of mental illness in loved ones, suicidal friends, daughters seeking abortions, and infidelity in our marriages.
Let us show the world that absolutely nothing can hold back the grace of our awesome God.
Feature image by Christian Rudman