Changed by the greatest story ever told

By Schulter Etyang 

Jeff Vanderstelt in his book Gospel Fluency says this, “All of us are living under a dominant story. We perceive the world and human interactions through the stories we know and believe.”

Our lives have been shaped or are being shaped by the stories we’ve heard or keep hearing. These stories either played out in our lives (in the case of our parents and families) or we listened to stories. One fond memory I have about my family is when my eldest sister Evelyn, sat us on the kitchen floor, and told us stories. Some stories were fascinating while others were really scary. But she told stories to my brothers and I.

Some few years back, I listened to this story for the very “first” time. And my life was changed. This story simply goes like this

the story 

A long, long time ago in the distant (Star Wars opening crawl) Middle East, a young couple was engaged to be married. Then the young woman became pregnant out of the blue. She claimed that she became pregnant via “extraterrestrial” means. In those days she lived, it was scandalous to be pregnant before you got married. Her boyfriend planned to spurn her but later changed his mind after some divine intervention. She gave birth to a son. They named him, Jesus. This son grew up and became very popular with the common folk. Why? He did a lot of good for the people. But he was also hated. Hated by the religious leaders and the elite of his days. Yet, he lived such a pure life to the extent that three separate Hebrew writers said this about him — he had no wrong, he knew no wrong and in him was no wrong. That’s how good this man was. But at the young age of 33 years old, he was falsely accused and convicted by the religious leaders of his day because they were jealous of how popular he was and the claims he made about himself. One of his claims was he was God. That was considered blasphemous and the capital punishment for his crimes was death. They first whipped him so bad that he was unrecognizable and then hanged him on a tree. While he hang on a tree, he forgave and prayed for his enemies. He died a very painful death. Three days after his death, it is said that this man came back from the dead and visited his followers. He was with them for forty days. Finally, his followers saw him ascend to the heavens. While he ascended, he promised them he would come back again for them. End

The details of this story are not so significant. You would not take this story to the bank and cash it. No ways. But there is something enchanting and enduring about this story that has captivated, enchanted and influenced all of us.  

This story has a beginning though. Christmas is the beginning of this somewhat mere story. A mere story? Oh yes. It’s the story of a man born in a common peasants house that hosted humans and animals. Born to a young couple who hadn’t figured out life yet. Nonetheless, it’s his story that completely changes us. For millennia, his story has changed humanity and influenced societies for good. 

The gospel is really just that — a story. Grace is just that — a story. 

We are saved (salvation/new birth) by listening to his story.

We are healed by listening to his story.

We become compassionate by listening to his story.

We have strong marriages by listening to his story.

We love others by listening to his story.

We move from living boring mundane lives to lives that are full of adventure by listening to his story.

We make career, parenting, and financial decisions by listening to his story.

We love our neighbors by listening to his story.

We love Jesus by listening to his own story.

For me, Christmas is a time to listen to his story again and again. I remind myself of this mere story that changed my life forever.

That’s what grace looks like

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