We humans love a good story. If you don’t believe me, just look at how popular movies and television are when there is a compelling plot or character. Whether it’s a fantasy setting on television, a superhero adventure in the theaters, a dramatic biography, or a children’s book, we love stories. We love to use stories to convey different ideas, experiences, and even our history.
One of the greatest collections of such stories is the Bible. It has stories of great heroes like Moses, historical dramas of kings and empires, and stories that spark our imaginations of what is possible through God’s miracles and wonders.
But the Bible doesn’t read much like a modern storybook. We don’t always see the details and character information we might expect in today’s literary world. For instance, we rarely, if ever, get a description of someone’s appearance in the Bible. We are never told what color Jesus’ hair or eyes were, or how tall he might have been, or even what clothes he wore. In some stories we do see some details, such as Jacob being smooth-skinned compared to his brother, Esau (Genesis 27), but that is only because this detail is important to the story.
I think in a way this lack of physical descriptions is intentional on the part of the Biblical authors. By providing very little description on a person’s appearance, it better allows those characters to act as a mirror for ourselves. We can more easily place our faces on their actions. We can put ourselves into their stories, and make them our own. The sins of these people mirror our own sins. The time, culture,
and names may be different, but at their core they make the same foolish choices we do. Like Abraham, we lie to protect ourselves (Genesis 12), or to take advantage of others like Jacob. Like Moses, we sin and try to run away from the consequences (Exodus 2). Like King David, we use our power to take advantage of others and try to cover up our mistakes (2 Samuel 11).
The next time you read your Bible, I hope that you will think about how you fit into those stories. Think about how you may be living into those same mistakes, and try to be better. But as you make these stories your own, I hope that you will also remember God’s grace and forgiveness. Remember that we can also claim God’s stories of love and healing for ourselves. May we share such stories of life and hope with others, encouraging one another and sharing signs of forgiveness and love. Through sharing such stories of transformation, we can continue to help one another, and make our community a better place to live. As the old hymn goes, may we “love to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love,” and be a blessing to others as we seek to transform this world into God’s Kingdom.