Recently we published an article online from a missionary named Nolan Sharp. Decades of ministry in Croatia had sensitized him, he said, to the ways divided people groups tell their stories. In a world riven apart, he argued, where warring camps spin tales that lionize their side and demonize the other, the biblical books of 1 and 2 Samuel model another approach.
The Benjamites supported Saul, and the Judahites supported David. The sides had every reason to despise each other. Samuel’s leadership ended in nepotism and failure, Saul’s ended in in bloodlust and insanity, and David’s was stained by the worst of sins. Yet the books of Samuel are unsparing in their storytelling. The narrative is not populated by angels on one side and devils on the other, but by flesh-and-blood human beings who are as remarkable for their failures as they are for their triumphs.
Sharp calls it a “reconciling narrative,” a story that affirmed their experience in all its complexity and brought a fragmented people back together with a common understanding of their history. The Benjamites and Judahites were indeed reconciled and survived in the southern kingdom when the northern tribes were scattered and lost. And thus centuries later, a Benjamite couple could name their son Saul, who became Paul and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
It’s a powerful summation of what we strive to achieve at Christianity Today: to be reconciling storytellers who record and reflect on the narratives of the church with honesty and humility. One example is our podcast The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. It has exploded in popularity, in large measure, I believe, due to its nuanced storytelling. Through ...1
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