We need stories: Learning from biblical narrative

Veggie Tales
(Photo sourced from: Minno Kids)
Veggie Tales (Photo sourced from: Minno Kids)

Written by: John Kent

Mike Nawrocki and Phil Vischer revolutionized my childhood’s Saturday afternoons with Veggie Tales and the suction-cupping superhero, Larry Boy. I spent many happy hours watching parodies of Bible stories acted out by talking and singing vegetables. 

And, of course, I can’t forget 321 Penguins! The four space-faring penguins with quirky names and personalities were also an integral part of my after-church routine. Both of these shows draw inspiration from the Bible. Take, for example, the Veggie Tales parody of the battle of Jericho, “Josh and the Big Wall.” Illustrated with slushies, peas and songs, the show tells the story of how Joshua and the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho and brought its walls crumbling to the ground. 

Through this story, children are taught courage and are inspired to persevere despite daunting obstacles. Stories like these from Veggie Tales simplify principles for children in a way that makes them more receptive to biblical truths. In the same way, Bible stories simplify principles for us in a way that increases our own receptiveness.

Typically, though, once we get older, we enter a new environment in which stories are not as important. We begin to leave stories behind, divorcing principles from the stories we learned them from. This choice often results in a tension between what we are told to do as a Christian and the experience we actually have as we interface with reality. Without stories, which provide a context that enables us to apply God’s principles within the reality we experience, principles become almost meaningless.  Stories are essential to understanding God’s true plan for a right world.

To transfer principles from the Bible into the reality we live in, we must understand that characters in the Bible are real and ordinary people from whom we can learn what it means to follow God. People like Joshua and David, for example, are case studies that teach what it means to apply the principles of courage and forgiveness. We cannot assume that since we have recognized the principle, we no longer need the story. The story itself gives vital insight into what the principles look like in action, protecting us from opinionated theology and dissension.

 This year, I am coordinating the Experience Sabbath School at the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists, regularly called the university church. We are exploring the stories found within the Bible to learn how to apply biblical principles to our reality. Our experience is based on a different reality than those in the Bible. But by learning from stories, we can obtain a better grasp of what it means to follow God.You are welcome to join us any Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in the church fellowship hall.

The next time you think of a religious issue or have trouble reading the Bible, try seeing past the principles to the story they are a part of. You just might gain some clarity, as well as a little bit of empathy for those around you. 

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