A wise person once said (I am too lazy to look up who it was) there is not a single person alive whom you wouldn’t love if you just heard their story …
… And this brings me to the next reason why I feel we have been given the bible as a story rather than an instruction manual.
First; stories help us imagine.
They enable us to place ourselves in situations we are not accustomed to. We are able to feel what it is like to be in situations not available to us in our day-to-day lives and this allows us to be more empathetic to people around us.
This allows us to imagine how someone else might be feeling, how we could possibly respond to situations unknown to us, and how to adapt the way we act to help those around us who are experiencing things we may never experience for ourselves.
Stories pull us out of our actual lives and transport us to places that only exist in our imaginations, and by doing this they teach us how to imagine ourselves in the shoes of people around us as well. We are taught methods and ways of caring for those around us.
The bible gives us stories in order that we may be able to feel and engage with cultures that otherwise would be foreign to us. The stories help us imagine what their experiences of God were like and how we can experience him in our lives and daily activities. They help us imagine how we might show his love to others around us in circumstances completely foreign to the stories of the bible.
This brings me to the final reason I want to highlight for why I feel we have been given the biblical narrative; stories call us to action.
Stories do not simply allow us to hear information and discard it to the recesses of our brain. Stories stick with us, motivate us, and haunt us until we are forced to do something in our actual “real” lives.
You cannot hear the story of people displaced by natural disasters, wars, or oppression and not feel the call to engage somehow.
Watching a news report may allow you to click the channel and move on, but hear the story of a person caught in the same “news” and you quickly feel the emotions well up inside you.
Stories are designed not simply to engage your brain (knowledge); they engage your whole being including emotions. And emotions are the key to action. Knowledge may guide action in the proper direction, but emotion kickstarts your body’s engine.
The bible likewise is intended to compel us to action. We hear the call of a world gone astray and God’s desire for reconciliation.
Our hearts resonate with the themes of a new creation springing up in the middle of all this mess.
We feel the sound of a call to action within us to join with him in the reconciliation of all things in His kingdom … and we can’t help but respond.
A how-to manual or a pithy saying may provide the instructions for doing a job right or tickle our ears with facts that are occasionally true (until they’re not), but they can’t arouse us to action.
Only a story can do that.