The Importance of Stories – Bible Journey Day 18
“Why don’t you get together and meet me in court? Didn’t I tell you long ago what would happen? I am the only God! There are no others. I bring about justice, and have the power to save. “I invite the whole world to turn to me and be saved. I alone am God! No others are real. (Isa 45:21-22 CEV)
I am a Christian because of the story of Jesus Christ. That’s not the only reason – nobody has only one reason for anything they do or believe. It might not be precisely why I became a Christian in the first place – there was a girl and a good deal of sin and shame involved with that, along with a community that wrapped its arms around me when I was homeless and gave me a place and a voice.
But in the 15 years between then and now, it is the story of Jesus Christ that has always wooed me and enticed me back at those dark times when I wished I’d taken the blue pill. It is that story that has inspired me to every good thing I’ve done in my life. It is that story that keeps me up nights reading and writing and thinking and investigating and praying and hoping. Because I’m not satisfied with gaps in my understanding – I’m not satisfied with the answers I’ve been given to questions about his identity and self-knowledge – I’m not satisfied with the answers I’m supposed to give when people can’t believe I’d waste my life on a so-called fairytale. But mostly, I’m not satisfied with the ideas and assumptions about Jesus that I and my Christian friends have allowed the rest of the world to hear and reject. I’m not surprised that a lot of my friends aren’t Christians – they remind me of Gandhi, who said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
My life has been completely shaken up, from top to bottom, by the story of a Jewish man, younger than I am now, who grew up in a rural farm-town (but not too far from one of the greatest schools in his nation) as a citizen of an occupied country. He grew up seeing the helplessness of his poor neighbors who wanted to live a holy life, but were ground up to dust between the wheels of the different political groups in his world. He could have taken up a sword and fought against the Romans – many of his neighbors did. He could have given up on being a Jew (after all, they’d been free for less than 100 years of the six centuries before he’d been born) and become a member of Greco-Roman society. His “king,” along with scores of sycophants and coat-tail riders of the house of Herod, had done that very thing. He had many options as a brilliant young Jew of his time.
But he remembered stories. Stories that shaped his identity and his purpose. He heard stories of his own special birth, but not as often as he heard Jewish stories – stories of a God as close as your very breath, stories of a God unafraid to give of himself to deal with evil, stories of a God who had plans for this world – plans to prosper it and not destroy it. Stories like what I read today in Isaiah 44-53, where the predominant theme is simply this: “It isn’t enough for you to be merely my servant. You must do more than lead back survivors from the tribes of Israel. I have placed you here as a light for other nations; you must take my saving power to everyone on earth.”
The Jesus I love grew up hearing stories like that, and like others in this book we call Isaiah, until he came to believe something CRAZY – that it was his calling, his vocation, his job alone to do for Israel and the world what these stories said that the Lord God of Israel would do.