Lately, I’ve been thinking frequently about narratives – stories that inform our lives, that give our lives meaning and direction, that help us to view the world in a particular way. A narrative can be something simple like “I like how I look,” or it can take a form as complex as your family history. Narratives can be true (“my work is valuable”) or false (“no one loves me”). They can be helpful or harmful, and that is a different quality than being true or false. These stories orient us to the world in specific ways, often in ways that we do not fully understand.
For Christians, the primary narrative of our lives should be the gospel of Jesus Christ. The meaning of our Savior’s life, ministry, death, and resurrection should shape everything that we do and even how we think about the world. We should see ourselves as sinners who have been redeemed at great cost and who have been given a great commission to spread this message of redemption and new life to people of all nations. Our obedience to the Lord is a natural outworking of this narrative; because we belong to Christ, we obey him at every opportunity – or at least that is our goal.
However, this Christ-centered perspective on the world is challenged by other narratives, many of which are false and unnecessary. The world presents us with alternate stories to adopt: the value of my life is determined by my health, safety, possessions, money, and so forth; what others think of me is more important than what God thinks of me; my success in life depends on how much power I can accumulate. Many similar perspectives can distract us from the truth of our human existence.
I met with a few pastor friends this week, and we were discussing among ourselves The Shack, a recent best-selling book about a man who comes to faith after experiencing terrible tragedy in his family life. If you haven’t read this book and are interested, just let me know – you may borrow my copy! Without spoiling too much of the story, I will say this much: the main character has a vision (of sorts) in which he interacts with God and wrestles with the meaning of his suffering. One of the pastors in my meeting this week suggested something fascinating about this vision: what if this vision of God was no mere vision but actual reality?
My reaction to his suggestion was to scoff and say, “of course not – that’s just a vision.” But as we discussed this idea, I came to realize that this reveals part of my own personal narratives. Specifically, I approach the world as if I am the one who gets to determine what is real and what is imaginary. A vision cannot be real because it’s just a dream! Do you ever function in the same way?
How would we think, feel, and behave differently if we acknowledged that God determines reality? What if we adopted his perspective on the world, on other people, and on ourselves? Jesus Christ has the transformative power to reshape our false, broken narratives into stories that reflect ultimate truth, which necessarily comes from his perspective. The journey of the follower of Christ requires laying down our perspectives on life and picking up those that belong to the Lord. If we see the world through his eyes, then we will better understand how to minister to a world that is in need.