As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
If you’ve read the Bible cover to cover, you have come across stories you will not forget. Disturbing stories that are painful to read. Ugly stories that scar your memory. Just the mention of their names will trigger the unpleasant memories.
The Levite and his concubine (Judg. 19). Lot and his daughters (Gen. 19). Dinah and the Shechemites (Gen. 34). Judah and Tamar (Judg. 38). Amnon and Tamar (2 Sam. 13). Abimelek (Judg. 9). Jephthah (Judg. 11).
Sermons are not preached on these passages and you definitely did not hear these stories in Sunday school.
If you’ve ventured into these dark corners of the Bible, these names bring back those emotions. Anger at atrocity. Disgust at lusts. Frustration with their foolishness.
Why would God put these awful stories in the Bible? What in the world are they supposed to be teaching us?
The ugly stories show us what we become when we reject God. We like to think we are better than the ugly stories. We’re civilized and educated. We love our family and friends, and we’re kind to strangers. However, the same Bible that includes these ugly stories also tells us that there is no one who is truly righteous and good, not even one (Rom. 3:9-18).
Multiple studies show a human tendency to overestimate our moral conduct.
We might not engage in mass slaughter, but many of us harbor bitterness in our hearts, which is the root of murder. We might not commit rape, but the problem of pornography is rampant, even in the church. Our sin might not be a raging fire, but the pilot light is lit. It burns, waiting for the right conditions to flare up.
When we reject God and follow our own purposes, ugliness results. These ugly stories hold up a mirror to show us how sin looks.
Recently I was listening to a sermon on the testing of Abraham. The preacher admitted a realization in studying for the passage. He said he felt anger at the prospect of Abraham sacrificing his son, but he did not feel anger at the thought of the sacrifice of the Son of God.
The ugly stories each have details that point to the ugliest story of all. The perfect Son of God left eternal glory to join us on this cursed ground, to heal sicknesses, give sight, raise the dead, and teach us the truth. Our response: We killed him in the worst possible way. Never was such goodness met with such evil. Never was the honorable more dishonored. Never was such innocence violated. Jesus Christ suffering at the hands of sinners, crucified, dead, and buried is the ugliest story of all. Because he died for our sins, the ugliest story is a true mirror in front of us. Other ugly stories show us what our sin can do, but the cross is a direct reflection of our sin. Our sin might not have committed mass murder or rape, but it did crucify God’s one and only Son.
By the almighty power of God, the ugliest story of all has an ending that is the most beautiful. On the third day, the Son of God rose again from the dead. The ugly enemies of God can now be children of God. Heinous sin becomes white as snow. The most disturbing event in history is now the good news of Jesus Christ for all people.
Let’s not skip over the Bible’s ugly stories. Allow them to call out the true ugliness of sin and to point to the beauty that God has brought forth from the ugliest story of all.