I once sat through a 16-hour class in two days and figured it would take plenty of caffeine to keep me awake. I was wrong.
The professor sat on top of his desk and seemed to rabbit-trail into a story at every opportunity. He gave us conflict and resolution, drama and mystery.
At the end of the class, I realized that he had landed all his key points through the story telling. He didn’t need lectures because he had tales to tell.
The Bible uses similar strategy. Stories beckon to our emotions, offering visits to different settings with people we don’t know.
We follow the thread of conflict and drama, eager to see what happens next. Our emotions are captured by the stories.
Whether it’s in a classroom or sitting at a coffee shop, stories always trump lecture.
From the beginning of Genesis, where we are given a dramatic unfolding of the creation of the world, to Revelation where we trek through mysterious accounts to read the final plan for the world, we find the Bible packed with stories about people and events, disappointments and victories, love and conflict.
In Genesis alone, we meet numerous people and their life stories. Noah is well-known today for his faithfulness in building an ark before there was a sign of a flood. We ask questions. How could he devote his life to this carpentry? What did the neighbors say to him? What did he say to them?
Abraham’s story fills much of Genesis and we follow his travels from his homeland to an unknown land. He tussles with his nephew, Lot, and with his wife, Sarah. Promises are made to him that he doesn’t see results for many years.
How did he feel when Sarah asked him to produce an heir through a servant? And, later, did he mourn when Sarah forced him to send mother and son – his son – into the wilderness?
What did the celebration look like when Sarah did bear a son, Isaac? Do we like Sarah? How does she train up her son?
We identify with the people and the stories. We grow in our empathy.
Like my professor who used stories to make his points, the Bible plants meaning through stories.