“It’s a great story. It has sex, violence, a whole lot of money, and it’s full of good-looking people. What more do you need?”
My head jerked up at the words, not quite sure my car-trip-dozing ears had heard the radio correctly. But I hadn’t misheard.
The radio continued on talking of the release of the final season of a popular show, that everyone was excited about, that everyone was talking about–oblivious to the fact that it had just dropped a profound revelation encapsulating our culture. (Regardless of whether or not you agree that its description of the show is accurate.) Here, on this solemn channel of BBC, a serious professor declared that all a good story needs is sex, violence, money, and attractive people. That’s it. That’s all the story needs.
And this one series isn’t the only show that thinks that. More, more, more, seems to be the chant of many popular stories, ever only worried about titillating our appetites. More action. More steamy romance. More explosions. There’s a reason Michael Bay films exist.
The Story of Our Culture
Yet it’s not just the movie and book and television stories that echo this idea of what makes a good story–the same idea echoes throughout all the halls of our culture. What defines this “good story” is sex, adrenaline, money, and physical beauty–and that’s the story that’s told about what all of our lives should be. A good story is full of sex, so a good life must be full of plenty of action. A good story is full of money, so a good life must be full of a new house and fancy degree. A good story is full of good-looking people, so a good life must be full of Instagram-worthy selfies.
That’s the story our culture tells. More, more, more, is its theme–more sexual freedom, more cash and cars, more plastic surgeries and contouring.
Because if life is full of these things, it must be a good story. After all, what more do you need?
But the problem is, our culture’s story quickly falls apart.
Spectacle With No Meaning
If you look at the four things our BBC professor listed, none of them are the plot. None of them give purpose to the overarching theme. None of them add meaning or drive the story. They’re all just spectacle–sparkle and show with no depth. Special effects and explosions are cool, yes, but by themselves they can’t make much of a story. Without plot, without purpose, without meaning, it’s all just empty exhibition.
And that’s exactly what the world’s story is. We’ve tried all it’s said, but have come up lacking. We’ve had our go at the buffet, but we’re still not filled. Studies show that those with more sexual partners are more unsatisfied. Horror and slasher films have become more and more intense just to keep their desensitized audience entertained. Good looks don’t last long, for time and age will always win against the most advanced diets and procedures. Even money’s assurance is paper-thin, and many suicides are among the rich and famous.
Just like a drug addict, we thought we would be made happy by this story, but have to keep coming back for bigger and bigger doses, until we’re wasted and despondently empty. We’re floating in a wine-soaked sea of novelties, but we’re still lost adrift, and we’re not certain whether the water is red only with wine.
Our world’s story is full of sex, violence, money, and attractiveness–but it’s not enough. What more do we need? Our generation’s hopelessness says a lot. The world’s story leaves us only empty.
But in Jesus we have a better story.
The Story of God
This story doesn’t focus on our wants or our appetites. It focuses on God. It focuses on His plan. And because of that, it has meaning, it has a purpose, and it has a plot. Life isn’t some meaningless pictures thrown together, God has directed the scenes of history to His purposes–His rescue plan and His glory.
God’s story has all the elements of truly good storytelling. We open with conflict and loss in the beautiful Eden. The Hero (God, not us) begins his quest to reclaim what is lost in Genesis 3:15, the first declaration of the Gospel, and the promise is repeated again to Abraham–a Seed, who will make everything new. Yet the journey is full of hardships, as Pharaoh tries throwing all the baby boys in the river to drown the Seed, and wicked Queen Athaliah attempted to wipe out the Davidic line and with it God’s promise. But through every hardship and attack, there’s always deliverance and escape.
Then we get to the turning point of the story–the Hero enters our world. In this main climax, He gives the ultimate sacrifice of death–and yet the ultimate victory as well. In the greatest of reversals, the death of the hero leads to the defeat of sin. God has triumphed, and accomplished His quest. The story ends with the future return of the King, and the restoring all things to good.
Beginning, climax, victory, resolution–and truth. Those are the things a good story needs. They give purpose to the characters’ actions, and an overarching purpose to the story, making it really mean something. And every good story we can tell has some little taste of them. But in God’s story they shine clearly. That’s God’s story.
That’s the story we have.
Our Story in Him
We’re not here just to eat, breed, and sleep. We’re here in this specific time, in this specific place, because it’s part of God’s plan. It’s part of His story. He has a purpose for us, and our ultimate goal is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” We’re not floating specks. We’re image bearers, bought by the blood of the Divine, laboring beside Him in restoring all things, and riding behind Him when the King brings His ultimate victory. That’s our story.
Maybe it’s not always a showy as the world’s story. It might not have the big explosions or the shiny cars. But one day, we’ll see those bright flashes as the empty effects they are when we compare them to the Son of eternity. The best stories aren’t the ones that make you blink from the brightness, but the ones that make you think about their rightness. The best stories are the ones that draw you in and change you. They’re the ones that have the power to make you new. And that’s what God’s story can do.
Christian, we have this better story. It is a good story in a way that sex, violence, money, and physical beauty never could be. It is the best story; it is The Story. Because it has truth, it has purpose, and it has the Creator God saving and reigning over all.
What more do we need?