Stories for Life

Posted on October 29, 2013 · Posted in Narrative

Man was made for stories. We remember stories. We laugh at stories. We cry over stories. We are motivated by stories. Why? Because God made us to love stories. The legacy of a culture is told by narratives, not by encyclopedias. Even in a culture as bent on moving away from God as our current one is, there are still biblical stories etched into the minds of people in our culture. These biblical narratives transcend ideological barriers. The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, the Christmas Story, and others speak of a God who may not be as easily dismissed as cultural elitists believe. While these narratives are often marred and confused in the culture, they still remain, and they still bring conviction to people. Themes of lostness, hope, and redemption resonate with the human spirit. For those who do not know Christ, these great themes may serve only to disturb rather than comfort–but still, people are drawn to stories. Examine the lists of the all-time most popular movies. The one thing these movies all have in common is that they tell memorable stories.

Because the biblical narratives are so memorable it is important that we interpret them correctly. Biblical narratives are designed by the Holy Spirit to communicate a particular theme or truth. This does not mean that every point in the narrative provides an example to be followed or implemented. Sometimes the narratives communicate actions that should most definitely not be copied. For example, the story of Simeon and Levi taking revenge for the way their sister Dinah was treated by the Shechemites is not a model for us to follow. It is a true story, but it is not meant to be an example of godly behavior. The brothers should have sought their father’s direction before taking action. These narratives must be read with discernment. Even when the narratives do contain examples of godly behavior, not everything in the story should be followed. Gideon showed courage in following God by attacking the vastly superior numbers of the Midianite army with only 300 men. However, he is often remembered more for laying out of a fleece to see if God’s word was really true. The story of Gideon is not meant to be an example of how to get divine guidance. Rather, the story demonstrates that God is faithful even when we are not.

Narratives are powerful, but they must be read carefully, and it is important not to draw more from narratives than the Holy Spirit intends. But it is equally important to intimately know the stories of the Bible. You and your children need to know them. These narratives are yours for life. 


Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.