WHAT DOES STORYTELLING HAVE TO DO WITH MISSIONS?
Written by Joe Liu, a member of Veritas who’s involved with the Student Ministry and Missio Veritas.
Originally posted at missioveritas.com
Here at Veritas, we recently had the special privilege of celebrating the stories of God’s people and our redeemer through baptisms and the preaching of Genesis 1:26-31. Stories have the powerful ability to make sense of the world that we live in and the experiences we go through. It’s why we love to tell them, whether it’s around campfires, over dinner tables, or across phone lines and family generations. When we are able to share common stories, we can share in one another’s experiences in a way that helps us identify who we are.
Image bearers of all kinds
Genesis 1:26-31 resounds with the beginnings of God’s great story which portray His excellent intent and delight in creating us. As men and women, we are all image-bearers of God at the core. We may have come from different cultures, socioeconomic categories, and had different painful experiences but our beginning as image-bearers is fundamental to who we are. If all people have really been made in the image of God, it means that etched in every heart is the longing to reflect and show off the glory of God, and stamped on every sinful experience is the disappointment of living to reflect our own glory. This is the deepest root of the value we put on human life – not only our own or the life of our church, but for all seven billion people across the globe that were created to display and reflect God’s unique glory.
The truth is that we often don’t live like all seven billion people were made in the image of God. We tend to give more value and love to those who speak our language, share our style, and have common interests. We sometimes talk more, pray more, and share the gospel more with people who are similar to us. But when we do that, despite our message, we declare that people have value when they bear our image, not God’s image through Jesus’ finished work for anyone who believes. Grasping Genesis 1:27 does something spectacular that propels us forward into culture-crossing gospel mission. It doesn’t just tell us to try harder. It tells us one story about all of humanity and the one true God that sweeps all seven billion of us off our feet.
Many nations, one story
The Genesis account of our creation shows that people of every nation, tribe, and tongue are part of the same cosmic story: made as image bearers of the one true God, deeply marred by rebellious self-image bearing, and freely offered complete forgiveness and restoration in the true image bearer, Jesus Christ, by his life, death, and resurrection.
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26)
“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God… For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:9-11, 22-24 [emphases mine])
We are all participants in the same cosmic story and mission of God. If we remain content with a personal transformation and forget the millions of broken image-bearers across the globe, then our god is too small and is not the grand god described in Genesis! Will one restored mirror do to reflect the beauty of the one who is called “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:15-16)? Revelation 7:9 tells us that God has bigger plans for reflecting His saving glory; “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb”
All people were created to bear God’s image, all people are marred by sin, and in Jesus alone there is forgiveness and restoration apart from all our works, so the gospel is good news for all people. The gospel is good news to the atheist university student in London, the hardcore trans-girl down the street, the Somali Imam across town, and your type-A executive manager one office over, as much as it is good news to you. Do the life details differ from person to person? Yes, but not enough for us to be content with apathy or fear. Don’t let your heart be afraid or unmoved to love your neighbor that seems nothing like you – consider how Jesus calls us to shine before the world and how Jesus himself is God’s image and shined into our darkness (Matt. 3:16O, John 1:1-18).
Listen to someone’s story today; share about Jesus and how he swept you up into His great gospel story!