Driving home from church one Sunday, my sister and I discussed an interesting topic. In essence, it was about what stories and marvels captivate our attention. What kind of hero is the world attracted to? We have so much adventure in our world – a myriad of skills, hobbies, workplaces, challenges, travels and more. Out of these, we have developed, watched and journeyed through countless books, movies, myths and legends. Our minds and hearts have been captivated by characters whose development through the plotlines makes us cry and laugh. We marvel at the artwork, the acting, the special effects and the music. When real-world disasters happen, we celebrate our own heroes, condemn injustice and join together to fight for #hope. It is inspiring to see just how far we have come – humanity. Yet, in all this, it seems the marvel of the Bible is forgotten, that Christ, our true Hope, is somewhat ignored.
Think about the typical hero in books and movies. No matter what style or genre you prefer, it seems the typical hero always has some of the following characteristics (and there are more than just these of course!):
- They grow in their identity and purpose
- They work through challenges
- They have a deep desire to make the world a better place
- They have a deep love for people, or family, or friends, or for their world
- There is always someone or something that brings them back from the depths of despair and defeat, and enables them to hope, and to fight, and to obtain the victory
Hope, courage, compassion, perseverance and a confidence in upholding moral values; the hero arises. There is adventure, there is journey, there is growth, and there is victory So, how does the Bible compare?
- There isn’t just 1 hero. The hero is God; it is mankind journeying as one with the Holy Spirit. It is mankind growing in identity as the people of God, as His children, as those with authority, made in His image.
- There are challenges, fights, defeat, despair, epic victories and unexpected twists at every corner. God can be very surprising because His thoughts and His ways are not our thoughts and ways.
- There is adventure in discovery, growth in identity, love that motivates more than any other
- The tangible promise of a perfect world, but one that requires the hearer to take action
- There must be trust, there must be faith, there must be belief, and there must be love
The Bible is astonishing. While movies and book scramble to keep their stories alive with sequels and spin-offs, the Bible is self-sufficient. It speaks a new story every time we read it because the Bible is the word of God, and God is ever-living and He has an eternity of stories to tell. What is it that keeps people away from the Bible? My sister shared some thoughts:
- People don’t like “omnipotence”
- The Bible has historic and political associations
The typical hero is not omnipotent. In fact, they fight against those who think they are omnipotent. God, however, really IS omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. God has so much power, we can hardly comprehend who He is. Yet, we can and this challenges a core value of society – self-sufficiency. We are driven to succeed, to be self-reliant, independent, to build a name for ourselves, and establish a legacy. There is adventure, there is journey, there is growth, hope and victory. When God steps in as omnipotent, it no longer is us building up ourselves, but it is God who builds up our success, our legacy, our independence. He builds us up in such strength and purpose that we achieve more than we could ever imagine ourselves capable of. We find ourselves treasure in heaven. We do not need to fear God’s omnipotence for in Him, our weakness becomes strength.
“And He [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – [2 Corinthians 12:9]
The Bible also has some big historical and political associations – the medieval battle between the Catholics and Protestants, the Crusades, the ongoing clash of what the Bible says is right, and what the world deems right. People used the Bible to condone slavery, and people used the Bible to end it. Like anything else, the Bible has been used wrongly to justify human ways. Yet, the Bible was never meant for this. The Bible is the infallible word of God. It doesn’t exist so we can do whatever we want. It exists to guide us into the authority and life of God. The Bible even outlines the “fruit” of our applying its word to our lives, and the “fruit” of choosing not to abide in it. Hatred, murder, dissension and selfish ambitions do NOT come from following the word of God.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time pas, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” – [Galatians 5:19-22]
We cannot blame the Bible for our problems. We have to recognise the influence of sin in our world and the authority of God’s word, the Bible, to overcome it and defeat it. However, we also need to recognise the danger in making the Bible fit our plans. That doesn’t work. We need to surrender to God’s plans and God’s ways if we are to reap the benefits of His kingdom.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” – [Romans 8:28]
So with this is mind, it seems the Bible is not your average story, nor is its hero the typical hero we would imagine. In a moment, something becomes clear. The key is NOT in how we present the adventure of the Bible, or portray Christ in a way that highlights His incomparable beauty. Rather, it is the renewing of our minds to see what God sees. What we have made out to be war and hope, God sees with a depth exponentially greater than our understanding.
“And do not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – [Romans 12:2]
Should Christ be uninteresting to those whose minds are not transformed?
“For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness. And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” – [Isaiah 53]
Jesus is not beautiful in the sense of how the world classifies beauty. His beauty is beyond this. What we see on earth is a shadow, a mere glimpse of what is to be revealed. We cannot appreciate His beauty, or understand His glory unless we allow the Holy Spirit to unveil our eyes. When this happens, the love of Christ, the desire to know Him more, and the zeal for His kingdom will captivate our hearts. Our lives will be transformed and the marvels of the world will dull in comparison to all that makes God, God.
A father once told me how he wanted his children to gain a wide experience of the world. He bought them books on ancient Greece, ancient Egypt and Buddhism. He wanted them to experience cultures and foods, stories from all countries and languages. He found many sources for their learning but, he never mentioned the Bible. I was amazed that this incredible book was not considered amongst the tools required for a wide appreciation of the world. The Bible contains some of the oldest, most influential words ever read across generations and nations. It has influenced society in more ways than any other ancient text, and it continues to exercise its authority today. After all, who better to ask about the world that the One who spoke it into being.
Of course, that all depends on what you believe, and on who you believe in. The media sways us towards the latest sentiment, the latest theories, and the latest opinions. Technology wows us with the scope of its knowledge. Art inspires us and questions us. The earth cries out to show us something more than what we can create. It cries out to show us the face of the Creator, the face of our God, the face of a hero beyond recognition. So, let us behold the Truth, the Way, and the Life with unveiled eyes.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” – [2 Corinthians 3:18]