Some people want to throw out the whole Bible because of apparent contradictions, but not so with me. If you read the Bible, like it’s a story written by God’s children, it becomes easier to deal with the inconsistencies. They are intentionally inconsistent; they are telling different stories to different people. The Chronicler writes a much different biography of David than the writer of 1 and 2 Samuel. In fact, the Chronicler excludes many of the worst parts of David’s stories that the writer of Samuel includes and adds a lot more good stories. This isn’t because the Chronicler is trying to write a whitewashed history of David; that’s a useless endeavor since David’s stories and sins are well known among Jewish people. The Chronicler is instead writing a vision of hope, for the future, of what a new David might have been. The Chronicler is writing a theological work as much as a historical work (and Samuel is a theological work in its own right). The audience is not unconscious of the differences between the two narratives and they don’t try to clean them up. They let them go because the story is still a story of a people, of a dialogue, of a tribe. It really is like these paintings.
And more important for our purpose, they are interacting and having a dialogue, but they are also telling a story that is unique to their time and place and to their audience. They have no trouble crafting a story that is unique for their purposes. These days we fight one another over who has the right story, instead of seeing where we’re coming from. We often caricaturize our opponents, whoever we deem them to be, instead of seeking to understand them.
I’m not necessarily trying to get us to understand how the story of God’s people can be told to different groups of people in different times and places, although I think that’s important. I want us, as a community, to imagine how we tell it in our time and place. And I mean this specifically. Circle of Hope, at large, has a way it wants to tell the story. And we have a specific way that we are telling it to our people today.
So the question for us to answer is what do they need to hear and how can we share it? The best part, and the advantage that we have, is that we aren’t really creating an “us” and “them.” We’re the ones we’re talking about. How do we tell the story of God to ourselves? How do we need to hear it?