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Stories of life and death

It was Calvin Miller who said that so many wonderful stories begin with “once upon a time,” but the best story begins “once upon a cross.”

And in the end, there are only two stories—those of bondage and death and those of liberation and life; stories that are from God and stories that aren’t. When The Deceiver appears to Eve, he brings his enslaving, man-centered story that is dripping with death. He begins with the accusation that God has forbidden Adam and Eve to eat from any of the trees in the garden (Genesis 3:1), but Eve knows better. She understands that the God of life has made everything and it is good. And she knows that she and Adam have been blessed by Him and made in His image. They have the freedom to eat from any tree except the one in the middle of the garden (v. 3).

But The Deceiver is nothing if not persistent. He goes for the jugular by asserting that if she eats the fruit her eyes will be opened, she will become like God, and that’s why He doesn’t want her eating from the tree. It’s not hard to see how The Deceiver changes the narrative from faith in God and His goodness to fear and anxiety that God is withholding something important from them.  Eve’s acceptance of this revisionism moves her away from the glorious freedom of tender trust to a black hole of selfish suspicion. Out of this context, she makes a choice for death rather than life.

While we’re a long way removed from the garden it’s nonetheless true that every day we have to make a choice about which story we’re going to follow. Will we be influenced by the story that brings life or the story that brings death? There is no middle ground—we can’t somehow place ourselves in a vacuum where we aren’t shaped by story. Life doesn’t work that way.

We live in a world where (seemingly) everybody wants to control the narrative. The political left as well as the right, science, the entertainment/sports industry, retailers, activists—everybody wants the microphone. They all urge us to look at the world through their lens. In the midst of this, the disciple’s challenge is not to try to control the narrative but to counter it. We are to live out the story of God’s goodness before the watching world. We are to proclaim the kingdom of heaven by feeding the hungry, loving and forgiving our enemies, defending the defenseless, and sharing the story of God’s reign.

The one that begins with “once upon a cross . . .”

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