All of our stories need context.
Imagine you go to the store and you start talking to a person you know. You are not close but you see each other occasionally. You start talking about your children and their achievements and suddenly this lady starts crying. You are not sure how to react. You end the conversation and think, “Wow, she is overly emotional.”
Now a week goes by and it becomes public knowledge that her son has made some terribly poor life choices. He was caught again and this time he will be going to jail for 3 years.
Does your attitude about that lady and that first experience change?
Now imagine a person you encounter at work. You try to tell them about Jesus and Church while they shake their head in disbelief. They tell you they once went to Church and then they grew up, went to college and got an education and they gave up on all that religious stuff.
Is it important that this coworker went to a Church that rarely taught them the Bible? Is it important that while they claim to have gone to Church a lot, that they really only went once a month or less? This person never went to youth group or a conference. They had little to no spiritual influence through their parents. Does any of that change their story? Does it matter that they went to an extremely liberal university? Does it matter that they didn’t ever go to Church during college? Is it important that they had no spiritual connections while on campus? Are those important parts of the story?
Let me go one level higher. You read a book where an author makes all kinds of religious claims. I think their life and background story are important. Maybe you read a book that makes claims against religion. I think the context of the author’s life is important.
You need to be very careful about taking anything today at face value. One of the reasons I share my life story in my blog on in my sermons is because I want people to know the context of my life when they hear my words. In fact, one of the things I love about ministering in a small community is that people get to know my story. The story matters to the message.
When you encounter a person who behaves in an unpredictable way with either tears or anger, what would happen if you found the context of their life? Would it change your thoughts about them?
What if the next time you read a story, an article or even a nonfiction book you asked, “What is the context from which this was written.” Would you hear the words the same way? Would you hear the solid truth and be able to separate it from the biased information?
The context of our story is important. All of our stories need context.