Part 2: Why Jesus Taught Using Stories

Embedded in Memory vs. Etched in Stone

This is the second is a series of posts exploring why Jesus used stories to convey his message and the implications for us. If you missed the first installment, you can read it here.

We are ancient creatures. We carry in our DNA the histories of our ancestors. We carry their stories as archetypes buried deep in our psyches.

WordfromSponsor_2Back in the day — and I mean way back when papyrus was hard to come by — the best sellers were packaged and sold in something called the Oral Tradition. People told stories and sang songs to convey significant histories and truths from one generation to the other. While we have moved on from parchment to paper and now iPads, the story still serves as an effective vessel for carrying the truths found in our hopes, dreams, disappointments, triumphs and failures.

If you ask me to recite the 10 Commandments, I will still struggle to name them all … there’s always that one or two that seem to evade me when put on the spot. Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait.

Now, tell me a story about a son who takes his father’s inheritance and blows it on living the good life only to find himself returning in shame and humiliation to ask for help, and I will remember and recall it forever because it is a story that resonates with my experiences, a story that calls me to connect with the characters. I put myself in their place to understand what they must be feeling: the prodigal son, the father, and the older son. I am invited into their shame, joy, and jealousy through my own experiences. I see myself and my humanity through them.

These stories and their truths tap into something both individual and universal — they share a communal experience with us while inviting us to bring our unique experiences to the story for a richer, more meaningful understanding. Something so perfectly one thing and another, so uniquely me and universally all, so ancient and yet so contemporary sounds like the work of the divine to me.

The story and the truth it conveys are inextricably bound. You cannot separate one without both becoming pale impostors. Spin the story in a centrifuge to extract a simple moral and you have reduce the story and its truth to a one-dimensional perspective that cannot survive without its symbiotic relationship with the other.

Begin with “Once upon a time” or “Verily, I say to you” and you’ve unlocked some psychological code into the psyche where we keep the good stuff that’s meant to last. Sounds sort of sacramental, doesn’t it?

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