Let’s become great Storytellers

But I say to you …

Mat 5:22.28.39


Life is communication. Biology defines life partly by the ability to communicate. That is true for cells, organs, and creatures. Positive feedback loops of all the parts in a cell and between cells based on different kinds of communication. Every level of complexity has new ways of communication.

Genetic codes, messengers such as dopamine, hormones, waves, electricity, sound, words.

But what is different with man?

Put a man and an ape on an island. Who is more likely to survive? I would put my bet on the ape. Even for small groups of men and apes. But how about larger groups?

Man learned to cooperate.

Well, so did bees and ants. But bees and ants cannot change their way of cooperation on short notice.

But apes also cooperate, as do wolves and dolphins. But only in bands, packs,  schools. Their cooperation does not scale. Why is that? According to the work of Yuval Noah Harari, animals need to intimately know their counterpart to cooperate. Their way of trust is intimate relationship.

The difference

Man can cooperate with strangers and in larger groups because we have something all other parts of creation do not have: we live in multiple worlds. We have what we call imagination. And we have ways to share it.

You probably think of art. A good painting, a great piece of music, even a wonderful book. Especially a wonderful book can take you into another world. But this ability is much more basic, and much more powerful.

We have powerful stories. The story God is telling us about ourselves and himself and our relationship, for example. Or the story of money. Probably the only story pretty much everybody believes.

We came up with this strange story that a piece of paper has more value than its material. Other non-existent entities back it up—or how would you describe a nation but as a story we agree upon? The story of money has become a most powerful story. It used to be that the paper had to be backed up with gold and the promise that at any time I could go to my bank or the national treasure and retrieve the gold backing my paper money in exchange. But our faith in the idea of money has grown to a point that there even is no paper available for all the money that supposedly exists. Banks, nations, corporations, individuals. We all believe in it.

How much this is true can be seen in times of crisis. When we expect something to go wrong, when somebody can tell us a story that would influence the market, that alone becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We loose trust in certain parts of the underlying story and start to rewrite it. Change management, politics, market manipulations, the economic miracle after WWII—powerful stories.

Our Story

We Christians have a story as well. It is based on the bible. But if we are plain and honest, that is by no means all that it is based upon.

Obviously, the bible is only part of the story that God wants to tell us. Paul says that we can see God in nature—thus nature, from the quantum world to the whole universe, becomes part of the story. For some 200 years, this part of the story has been strangely disconnected from the story the bible tells. Has it? It has been disconnected from the story we read in the bible, and that is a big difference.

The Holy Spirit is another way that God wants to tell his story with. The bible itself says that the letter kills, but the Spirit brings life. It is necessary to listen to the Holy Spirit to understand the story God is telling.

And be frank, we include emotions, our own reasoning, circumstances into that story as well. But since we only know in part, we never have the full picture.

This leads to a very distorted interpretation of God’s story at best. And we cannot even agree on one version.

The church in Jerusalem was called the way. That is the Hebrew word halacha. The halacha is the interpretation of the word of God for a certain time or situation.

When Jesus said: you say, but I tell you, he gave us a very authoritative halacha. One you can count on. One that was meant to engrave in stone and give us the only interpretation for the rest of, well, eternity? Probably not, but one that every following halacha has to be measured against.

What does that mean?

The story of God is living, developing, being told as we speak. But it also is consistent within its framework, has a masterplan, and in all of its complexity with a myriad of succeeding and parallel plots, has a definite story line.

Our Story today

Today, the story most of us tell is one of doom and gloom and bare survival. One that believes utterly in defeat, even though in the end, there is victory by grace. The story we tell is one of failure, judgement, and undeserved and unearned restoration.

The story focuses on darkness growing. And we look at the world—usually through news and newspapers—to prove it. And in the light of that prove, the story of the bible can only be interpreted as it is today. Wars and rumors of wars prove that this is the time Jesus spoke of in the olivet discourse. And if you tell people that there probably never was an area in time with less wars than today, they recite: when everybody will say peace, peace, it will happen. And they do not even see the contradiction in their reasoning.

What if those prophecies have been fulfilled in the past? What if they mean internal greater spiritual realities instead of external facts and happenings? Even if they are still to happen verbatim, are they worth the fear they trigger?

Most great challenges of this world are not tackled by Christians because, well, it’s over soon anyway and we cannot succeed in the first place.

Most stories developed from Revelation have the church defeated and leaving earth in its darkest hour, only to come back after Jesus cleaned up the mess to judge those that missed it. Thus, why should I bother about or even acknowledge climate change, why should I solve the drinking water or energy problem, artificial intelligence.

Did you react to this small list and want to contradict me now? Let me guess: it probably was the part about the drinking water. Of all those problems that is the one we can identify with the most, as it touches a deeply Christian string: mercy. But we think about it on a scale like digging a well in some African village. That is great for a few hundred people. But solving it once and for all? 97.5% of the water on this blue planet of ours is salt water, 2% is ice. We live off 0.5%. Having enough energy and the technology to desalinate enough water would solve the problem once and for all. To big a challenge? Why bother?

Or was it artificial intelligence? This strikes some fears in us, doesn’t it? The fear of playing God. The danger of AI eliminating man. Maybe even the fear of being obsolete. Let’s leave it to the world, Jesus will take care of it when he returns. In the meantime, we try to regulate and prohibit.

I am painting an extreme picture here. It is not to ridicule or belittle anybody. I brought these examples up to show the power of a story.

A new Story

What if we instead concentrate on the light? What if Revelation is the story of the fading old creation that started at the cross and found judgement in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple to fulfill the promises and terms of the contract of the old covenant? What if we really are a new creation, and the old is dying around us and only a memory within us? What if God decided that we are the tool he wants to use to bring about this new creation? What if creation itself were waiting on us, the sons of God, to surface and do our job: restore everything in cooperation with Jesus?

What if Paul really meant it. If he meant it when he said that we are the body and he is the head. When he meant it that he himself is eagerly awaiting the maturing of the believers, them taking their rightful place by inheritance on the throne to rule with an iron rod. An iron rod that elsewhere is called the rod of his mouth, then again the sword of his mouth. Words. The word. A voice like many waters as in many saying the same thing. Let us speak to creation. Let us tell a new story. One of victory. One of restoration. One of cooperation and communication. Let us find the halacha the storyteller was telling in the first place.

We are created after his image in diversity to cooperate with, help and complement each other to fulfill our assignment. To with God’s help take care of this world and all of creation.

Ready to develop a new story? Tell me.