Sometimes It Only Takes a Story
“Christians need sound teaching,” I’ve been told many times. And this of course, is true. But here’s a question, “How much teaching do we need?”
Without starting an argument, I’ll add this: Sitting for sound teaching is beneficial, but we must also be quicker to go and tell.
Think about it; Sunday after Sunday we can go to a good church in our community and learn from someone who knows more than we do about the Bible and all kinds of theological ideas. We can even learn how to live a much more fulfilling life. We have some amazing teachers out there we can watch online. Good stuff. Solid stuff.
We can do a lot of sitting and listening if we choose. We can listen to podcasts, CDs, watch YouTube, Facebook Live—and we can become thrilled with all we are learning. None of this is bad, but again, “How much teaching do we need?”
Recently I was reading through Mark’s narrative and in chapter 5 the wild story of the “Gerasene Demoniac” caught my attention.
This man, demon-possessed, was so crazy it’s hard to believe someone didn’t just stone him so he would stop terrorizing the community. The demonic power in him was so strong he could break chains and as Mark says, “he was crying out and gashing himself with stones.”
Let me be real; if I run into someone like this it is highly likely I would be outta there.
Not so with Jesus. The man runs up and bows down before Jesus, saying, “What do I have to do with you, Jesus, son of the most high God? I implore you by God, do not torment me.”
The demons knew the game was up and began negotiating their surrender with Jesus, who tossed the legion of them into a bunch of pigs. The pigs, now demon-possessed themselves, promptly rushed down a hill into the sea. This likely ruined a future barbecue for someone.
Okay, I threw in the last part, but it was quite a moment.
It’s what happened next which captures me. The man calms down and as the crowds see this man is finally sane, then they are frightened. I guess everyone was fine when he was thrashing about and breaking chains, but now they’re terrified. Go figure.
So the villagers, after seeing a man work an incredible miracle in their midst, respond logically. They ask Jesus to leave. Being such wise sages, they didn’t want someone running around in their town healing people. No good deed goes unpunished, right?
But the now-healed man was suddenly in a fix. He was free of demons, but no one wanted him–or Jesus–around.
He did exactly what any of us would do; he asked Jesus if he could accompany him on the next boat out of town.
Jesus should have said, “Absolutely. Our boat is your boat. I want you in my flock; there is always room for more followers and I have so much to teach you.”
But Jesus didn’t say this at all.
Instead he replied, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you,” (Mark 5:19). In other words, “No. You need to go home and tell your story.”
Jesus must have been having a bad day. Or, he was being selfish; not wanting a guy who was probably still smelly and messy to hang around with he and his disciples.
Or . . .
Perhaps Jesus knew this man didn’t need more teaching. He simply needed to tell what he already knew.
I wonder sometimes if we in the Christian community get comfortable with being taught. Let’s be honest; sitting and learning is so much easier than going and telling.
But, a former demoniac didn’t need more teaching to convince others about Jesus. Come to think of it, the Woman at the Well (John 4) didn’t need a lot of teaching, either. Instead, these people had stories. And for them, this was enough to accomplish what they were called to do.
Should we be reticent about learning more? No. Let’s not forget, in the story of the demoniac, the disciples needed to be in the boat with the teacher.
But when it is time to tell our story, let’s do it–even if it isn’t comfortable. We don’t need to have a wealth of knowledge or be accomplished orators.
Sometimes, we believe our story must be compelling or dramatic. The demoniac certainly had one, but this isn’t necessary. All a story needs to be is ours; our telling of what God did for us.
Telling our own story, transparently and honestly, is often all it takes to reach that person wanting to take the next step of faith.
While Mark doesn’t tell the rest of the Demoniac’s story, I’m trusting he was faithful to do what Jesus asked of him–even if it seemed more comfortable to hop in the boat.
And, I’m trusting I won’t let myself get so comfortable listening and learning . . . that I overlook the incredible power of telling a story.