Yesterday at church services, my local pastor gave a very intriguing sermon message about the value of biblical stories for their moral instruction as well as their providing certain patterns of behavior as models of our behavior to adopt or avoid. Those who know me well personally or have read this blog  know that there are many stories in the Bible that I have been able to identify with for a variety of reasons and in a variety of situations. To be sure, not all of these stories are necessarily pleasant, but I would like to discuss at least some of the reasons why I tend to draw inspiration and encouragement from the biblical stories that I do, even though I have discussed many of those stories themselves elsewhere.
Many of the biblical stories that I relate to are for very strong personal reasons. This is not terribly surprising, as it is true for many of the people that I know. Those who are aware of biblical stories that relate to them are generally prone to draw such strength and encouragement from those stories as is possible. Sometimes, for example, the Bible appears to hold out rather serious reflections on the survivors of rape (there are, to my knowledge, no direct stories about biblical children who survived child abuse, though some authors have attempted to divine such stories while some implicit evidence remains for others ). Other people in the Bible suffered deeply from loneliness and depression, and I have tended to draw encouragement and strength from how these people remained godly despite their struggles. Likewise, the story of Boaz in Ruth has always been an encouragement to me because it shows how a kindly and somewhat diffident man ended up with a wonderful and beautiful young woman as a wife. As the conditions of my life have shifted, I have found inspiration in different stories that related to those aspects of my experiences that were novel and unfamiliar to me.
Other biblical stories have been of particular importance to me because of the way in which they served to legitimize my interests in various walks of life where that has been contested by others (particularly others of communities of faith), as well as my worldview in general. Whether these interests have been a desire in seeking to engage in dialogues with people of other backgrounds and cultures to create a bridge to encouraging biblical belief on their part or in my interests in such matters as the legitimacy of espionage and higher education  from biblical grounds, at times my interest in biblical stories is as a way of defending interests that may seem unusual in a given social context, by showing their praise from the scriptures. Showing this sort of example does not necessarily remove the contested nature of such activities, nor does it necessarily remove all of the difficulties one faces in engaging successfully in those activities, but at the same time it does provide some measure of support for areas of life where one’s behavior and interests are godly, even if a little quirky. Not surprisingly, this happens a lot in my life.
Other stories have been of particular interest in providing me with models of behavior and conduct to adopt in the relative scarcity of such examples or opportunities in life. At times I have sought counsel from biblical stories to provide examples of how biblical figures with somewhat similar perspectives and struggles had to face discipline because of those mistakes, as a way of providing mental discipline to those same tendencies in my own character . At other times I have sought to read to gain some insights in how gain encouragement and understanding in how to conduct certain delicate personal business where I have lacked the confidence in my own experience and background in doing so successfully. As might be expected for someone who devours books as I do, I tend to approach problems by seeking understanding and information to help me figure out positive approaches to dealing with my life.
I am not sure to what extent my use of biblical stories is unusual or distinctive, but I hope that it might at least demonstrate that the use of biblical stories can be quite extensive and for legitimate reasons. Whenever we can draw encouragement from the lives of those who have gone before us, we gain encouragement to know not only that our lives and experiences that are not unique, but that no experiences can remove us from the love and compassion and blessings of our God. Whenever we look into the Bible and find godly people engaged in the same sorts of activities as we are, we gain legitimacy that we can be godly in whatever places God has placed us, so that we can do whatever it is that we do in a godly fashion. Likewise, by gaining insight from existing models and patterns of behavior, we can increase the speed and skill by which we can adopt successful responses to situations with which we have little personal experience. We can at least allow ourselves the opportunity to learn without relying solely on painful personal experience. Let us hope we can draw what encouragement and wisdom as we can to make our lives better and more enjoyable.
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