Stories are powerful tools because words are powerful tools. Well-told stories intentionally move readers to feel. The output of our lives typically flow from our feelings. That can cause us trouble–or it can be the source of transformation.
We must learn to hear and speak with equal intention. Words are the medium God used to create…words still create. We are responsible for what our words create in others–and what others’ words create in us. In this age of mass communication, that is a daunting reality.
I have promised a weekly hero story, and I have an unlikely hero for us to consider today: A hero unlikely to be popular today. He is a hero who held another accountable…a friend willing to wound because of the greater good that could come. Pastor and writer, Bob Deffinbaugh explains his hero-ship it this way:
I do not know how many people I have known who refused to rebuke or even caution someone close to them, thinking that they are being a friend by being non-condemning. A good friend does not let us continue on the path to our own destruction. Nathan was acting as a prophet, but he was also acting like a friend.
Do you remember the passage that tells this story (2 Samuel 12)? David, the man described as being after God’s own heart, has drifted away from God and fallen into ugly sins: lust, immorality, lies, murder and more. God doesn’t leave His kids sitting comfortably in sin. If you read Psalm 32, you’ll hear David’s discomfort with the sin. But it wasn’t moving him back toward God. So, the loving Father sent a hero.
David’s friend, Nathan, a prophet, was sent by God to tell a very specific story to David. Knowing his friend well–and loving him well, Nathan tells David a story he can relate to…a sheep story for a shepherd. Nathan tells of a selfish rich man who–not wanting the responsibilities of life to cost him anything — steals the precious lamb of a poor family to kill for his dinner guest.
The selfish, greedy, unfairness sparks anger in David, and he wants justice done. The story moved him to feel what his own story should have generated–but did not. Initially, David didn’t recognize the anger as the self-righteousness it was; that’s the way we people are. Our own actions make sense to us. We see the ‘sins’ of others far more easily than our own. A hero and a story set David back on track with God.
That is the power of the story: it opens our eyes to a humbling truth:
The shortcomings of others bug us the most when they are reflection of our own deficits!
The stories we hear elicit a response from what is stored up in our heart. The more we become like God, the sweeter the response will be:
A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45
Years ago I heard a profound statement that had so much truth in it, I’ve never forgotten it: “After about complaining for the thousandth time about how ridiculous others were–how ignorant, how selfish, how ‘whatever,’ I suddenly realized: It can’t always be everyone else. Maybe the problem is me.” Whenever the reports I hear generate a critical, complaining attitude in me, I remember her words and begin digging for deeper understanding.
We have plenty of opportunity for digging just by listening to the news! Controversies and tragedies abound: gun control, Islamic Terror, homosexuality, mass shootings. Media reports generate a storm of responses…but very few heroes. Everyone has an opinion but few find facts–and even fewer ask God for His viewpoint.
We think our news reports facts…but our news tells stories. Stories aim to engage listeners–to build an audience. One way to do that is to pit one aside against another. Sadly our nation takes the bait.
As Christians, we need to aim to be like Nathan…a friend whom God can send to transform lives. Our nation is destroying itself; let’s be purposeful in being a friend–first to God and then to those He instructs us to enter into conversation with.
THE MAKING OF A HERO
Here is an acrostic to help guide us toward story responses that glorify God.
Pray for Perspective. There is always more to a situation than one knows. Nathan went as a friend who cared and as a representative of God…those are key perspectives before entering into the public fray. Don’t go from the perspective of know-it-all or superior thinker. Go as a friend and humble servant of God.
Awareness vs. Assumptions. Gather facts. Don’t believe everything you think and remember: Love assumes no wrongs.
Understanding. Find the heart of the matter. Folks are seldom as ignorant and obtuse as the media paints them to be. Fools care about sharing their view; the wise seek to understand.
Seek Shared Interests. Seek common ground instead of debating differences.
Educate with Empathy. Care about others as you respectfully share the points that support the perspective that gives glory to God.
When we learn to P.A.U.S.E. we are on our way to becoming a hero for others like Nathan was for David. And our reward is beautiful. Instead of seeing the yuck in others (that has been reflected from our own heart), we will see God! Now, there’s a story that gives great motivation!
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8