Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Power of Story

Why did you do that?

It's the question we all think we have to answer, more often than we actually do. Someone asks us what drives us or what motivates us or what we were thinking, and we start to come to our own defense - usually with some well-thought out reason or rationale for what we've done, some justification for our actions.

Not Stephen (and not Paul, but we're only in Acts 7 for now).

It's this tremendously dramatic scene. Stephen has been brought before the chief priests and accused of "slandering" God and Moses - big no-nos in the Jewish faith. He hasn't done it, of course; he's being accused by those who don't particularly care for his pure heart, the way he serves, and his teaching.

Most of us here would simply say, "I didn't do it" and figure that's enough. If, in fact, we are innocent (as Stephen was), then not having done it is defense enough. Now, we might start to feel a little insecure about ourselves and start talking perhaps a little too much, at which point we'll probably start to say things like, "What I actually said was..." or "What I meant was...." Again, we're all about making sure that others understand us.

Stephen doesn't do that (and again, neither does Paul). This is what I love about it.

He's standing there, falsely accused, all kinds of stuff being thrown at him. And instead of reasoning his way out of it, instead of explaining his way out of it, instead of justifying his way out of it or simply denying it, Stephen starts to tell them all a story.

God's story.

From the beginning.

The chief priest confronts Stephen and says, basically, "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" And Stephen starts in, "Way back somewhere in the land of the Chaldeans, God came to Abram and..." Fifty-seven verses later, he's stoned to death.

Mostly for demonstrating so eloquently how well he actually knows the story of God, in contrast with those present who truly slandered God and Moses (and Stephen) and who do not know how history unfolded to get them here.

We're a little bit afraid in our culture to make God our first defense. It's too easy, we say. It's too much like a cop-out. We could just claim God for everything and not have to think about anything or justify anything or reason at all. God this, God that, God whatever. And the world would laugh at us, as it so loves to do. Those naive Christians, always passing everything off on God. Not taking responsibility for anything.

But what if instead of referencing God as an object or as an idea, we demonstrated ourselves through His story? What if our first defense was to start at the beginning and say, "This is the unfolding story of God, from the formless and void right up to this very moment, right up to my little part in it"? What if we knew not just about this being called God, but knew His story...knew it so well that it was also our story?

What if the next time someone looked at us, hands on hips, and said, "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" we replied,

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.... 

You know, I may just try that someday. Although it's also worth pointing out that the two guys who did it so well ended up executed.... 

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