We examine the elements of a story and how these apply to The Story of all stories. Heroes and villains, major and minor characters, seeming defeat and reversals of victory. We love stories. The structure of a story communicates a message, a sense of adventure, and invites us into a purpose. Every story is a microcosm of the great story of The Bible. Each of us are minor characters who make major impacts on The Story. Exploring Scripture helps equip us to contribute our part to the grand narrative.
What is the story of the Bible?
There are a few elements you will find in any story. A hero. A villain. A reversal of some kind. The hero is trying to get to an objective and the villain is trying to keep the hero from that objective. Somewhere along the way, the hero falls and you think the villain has won; but the hero comes back and succeeds in the end.
Another element is character development. What the hero experiences enroute to his/her objective causes the hero to grow, learn, and change. This is true for minor characters, whose growth plays a major part in the message of the story.
Story is always saying something more than it is saying. The story has a purpose, a message. Minor characters help to bring some depth to the story. It allows the message to be communicated through a variety of channels, examples, and avenues. A microcosm of what the greater story is about, what the main hero is experiencing. For example, Harry Potter is the hero, but the focus on Harry’s importance allows for free expression of other characters – they don’t have to be the hero; they can make mistakes and have more grace. They represent dimensions of the purpose. Minor characters are minor heroes or minor villains but do not carry the weight of the cosmic, ultimate struggle.
We love story because it is a reflection of what is going on in our lives and in our world. Heroes need to be personal, relatable. And one of the primary considerations is power now versus power later.
In Scripture, God is the hero. He gives humans glory and honor, putting them above plants and animals and angels (Psalm 8). God uses cosmic babies to overcome Satan. An incredible part of the story. Jesus comes as a man, a Second Adam (reversal), as the ultimate example of this. Jesus comes in humble circumstances, lives as a servant, is misunderstood, etc.
All of us are minor characters. And they are important to the story. A minor character is a hero/villain in their own right. We have the chance to be a hero, to do good. To choose The Light. Our choices are grand. They matter. They are significant to us and to the greater story.
Bible characters are very human. The disciples, for example, are idiots, almost never got things right, didn’t understand who Jesus was, and made lots of mistakes. We all come out of corrupt circumstances. We have the chance to make one choice at a time to participate in the grand story, without bearing the burden of the ultimate Story, the mega-narrative.
Changing from obligation to adventure happens when we realize what the story is ultimately about. Realizing the story is not solely about ME. I am not the ultimate hero. It is, at first, a disappointing revelation. On further consideration, it is strangely freeing and then kind of exciting. What does it take to be a good minor character? What do heroes go through, what does it require of them, what do I need to commit to be a part of it? The story comes alive as we witness it, share it, and participate in it. We feel emboldened to steward our story more effectively.
We are not carrying the ultimate cosmic burden. But our participation is not minor. Minor characters are not minor in significance, just not fully responsible in the ultimate battle. But we get to choose what to do. We decide where to align, how to live.
We see The Story of The Bible come alive in all other stories in our culture and in history. It’s the same fabric of the major narrative of life. Are we going to play the role asked of us? Every choice is a grand choice. Each one builds on another and sets up patterns in our lives. Whether we are hero or villain is often the result of a snowball effect. We need to be stewarding every daily choice well.
Doing is flesh. Wishing is spirit. A lot of being a hero is accepting the reality of delayed gratification. It doesn’t feel good to restrain or wait. Walking in the Spirit is doing a lot of little things that feel bad in the moment but you are glad about it later. Patience: not doing what you feel like doing in the moment of an irritation.
Minor characters are usually doing things that don’t seem major in the moment but turn out to be very important when all is revealed.
A lot of our journey as minor characters comes down to a choice about time preference. Are we willing to wait? Do we need it now? We see this in society all the time. When it becomes a habit, we are basically saying “all I care about is now”. The Bible calls Esau “profane”, a word which means “common”. He is criticized for being unable to see himself as important. Esau sold his birthright for a pot of stew. He chose now.
Humans achieve greatness through service. We are participants in the grand story. When we see ourselves as a potential hero on a challenging journey, our difficulty makes more sense. It is worth it for the potential to come. We are all living stories. And Scripture is the story of all stories.
***All study resources mentioned within the series can be found here.