Do you ever find yourself reading a book or watching a movie, something happens to the protagonist, and then you audibly gasp? Perhaps you find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat because you've gotten so immersed in the story. When we begin to identify with others, even fictional others, we start to place more and more value in their lives and in the outcome of their journeys. Each hiccup, trial, failure, or even success becomes personal to us in a way that doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense when we think about it logically.
To invest, emotionally, in someone else can be a sign of a healthy sense of empathy. It can be difficult to be a follower of Jesus and have little ability for empathy. To invest too much can lead to some dark and dangerous places psychologically if we have developed unhealthy attachment syndromes.
People have asked me, "why preach on Narnia, Middle Earth, fiction, tv shows, or movies at all?" The first part of that answer should be obvious, I hope. It isn't these media sources that we preach on, it's the Bible, it's Jesus, so to say we are "preaching on it" is not entirely accurate. The second part of the answer is simply, "we draw upon the imagery and story of these sources because people have already invested in them." No, not everyone is invested in Lewis or Tolkien, or any other fictional source one could name. Yet, enough people are that the weight of the illustration is already carried in its mention. More can be conveyed with less because there is already an investment in the imagery, idea, or story.
This is particularly important for Christians to understand, to my way of thinking anyway. Often, it isn't the story of Jesus that those who have never heard the Gospel, or embraced Jesus as Lord, that convinces and compels people. We are invested in the story of Jesus so we find that hard to believe. The truth is, it is often OUR story, OUR life, OUR example of how God through Christ has done a work in us that causes people to question, evaluation, examine, and open up to belief in Jesus. They see the story of Jesus lived out in our lives and because they are invested in our lives, they open up to the possibility of Jesus being real in their lives.
I'm going to be preaching about the power of story when I return from a few weeks away with our son in Cooperstown, NY. This is a place, fittingly, where the story of baseball's history is told and where our son is headed to attempt to write another successful chapter in his own baseball story. In fact, in his life, I've known a number of people who never cared about baseball have started caring at least a little bit because he cares. That's the power of investing in another persons story. How have you shown those who have invested in your story the love and power of Jesus this week?