I cannot start watching a movie, reading a book, or hearing a news story from the middle or end. I’m confused about who the people are and what’s going on. It’s impossible to grasp the meaning of the climax with zero information about the beginning and middle.
The Bible is the same way. Knowing the story of Jesus doesn’t make nearly as much sense without understanding the bigger story. I have been taught to begin sharing the gospel with the fact that all are sinners—but how did that happen? And how does Jesus’s life and death help us understand the horrendous evil and darkness in the world?
In Joshua Chatraw's article on apologetics in the April 2018 issue of Christianity Today, he talks about how God’s big story can work into gospel conversations today: “Instead of hiding our theological convictions, we ask the person to consider how Christianity’s meta-story, along with all the Bible’s little stories (and other genres) aswell as the gospel itself, better explains the world around us.”
Some years back when I was part of a mission trip to Kazakhstan, the headmaster of a nearby school contacted our host church and asked them to send some of their American guests over for conversation. After he welcomed the whole team in his office, he sent some of the group to interact with students and asked that a few stay for further conversation with him.
This man raised under the Soviet regime told us that he was confused. If there was a God, why was the world in such a mess? He was skeptical that God can exist when there are wars, horrible deaths, and tragedies. In light of that, how was he to figure out the differences in the various religions?
The only man there from our team explained how Christianity is unique among all the religions of the world. While the others require people to earn their way to God, Christians believe that God gives us relationship with him as a gift through Jesus.
Over and over the headmaster returned to his questions while the man gave the same answers. I’m sure our team member had been taught, as I had, not to get off subject from the gospel, but he failed to understand that God’s one story is the gospel in bigger form.
The longer they said the same things over and over, the more I was about to burst as God strongly impressed me that I had to speak. Finally I asked our team member if he minded if I chimed in, and he said no.
So I told this man the main points of God’s meta-narrative. Yes, the world is a place full of sin and darkness. But God hates it too because that wasn’t how he created it. God is as upset as we are about the state of the world. God created a perfect creation, but people ruined it and brought dysfunction and evil into the world. God tells us in the Bible that he sent Jesus who is God himself to put all back to right again. Jesus died to rescue us individually from the hold that sin has over us, and he will in time come again and renew everything in creation so that it is once again perfect. Some day God will make all things right and there will be no more wars, natural disasters, hated, or death.
I spoke of the hope Jesus brings not only for individuals but also for his entire creation. I knew that this man needed to know that God is saddened over what sin does to the world and to people. No, the man didn’t believe in Jesus at that time and maybe he never has, but we planted the seeds. He needed more context than the fact that Jesus died and was raised for him. His concerns went beyond the climax of the story. He needed to know that God was sad with our world and would someday fix it.
The big story is important as we seek to share the truth with others. And it’s a simple story. Some people use other terms for the major parts of God’s epic story, but I generally use paradise, ruin, reconciliation, and consummation. It’s a story of love.
If you have never put the whole Bible together or studied God’s big story, I would really encourage you to do so. I think it’s the best way to reach the younger generations. If you have never studied the big picture story of the Bible, find a good resource to help make sense of it all. Matt Chandler’s books The Explicit Gospel is great. Beyond Ordinary Women Ministries has my Bible study for women The ONE Story to freely preview, or contact me to help you find something else that fits your needs.
How have you seen the big story of the Bible become an “ah-ha moment?”