I think “Show and Tell’ is a brilliant idea as a safe introduction to public speaking. You probably remember doing this yourself. You would take something to school that you deemed special and hold it aloft while you gave your squirming, fidgety classmates a bit of information about it. I think it is safe to say that without that little prop in your hands, the attention span of your classmates would have been just about zilch. First, kids don’t have great attention spans, and second, let’s face it, you probably weren’t a compelling speaker.
I mean, seriously, think about it. Have you ever listened to a young child earnestly retelling an event from their day and you have NO idea what they are talking about? You nod and say “uh huh” and “Really?” but you are still clueless. But when they can show you something, along with their words, it begins to make sense.
I enjoy listening to The Moth Radio Hour on NPR. It features live performances of people who, without notes or props, tell true stories of ordinary life in such a way that the listener see life in a different way. Unlike the young listeners of Show and Tell, these storytellers have no problem holding their listeners’ attention. I think the strength of a good storyteller is that rather than making a bald statement, they show a truth about human nature simply through their story.
I was reminded of this recently as I starting reading a novel set just after the crucifixion of Jesus. The story started out well enough with the author showing how a centurion, charged by Pilate to find out the truth about the ‘stolen body’, goes about his task. He eventually meets up with Joseph of Arimathea who tells him this:
But how did we respond to this gift? We crucified him. We all stand convicted, guilty of a crime so horrendous that the very heavens shook. I was there that day, Roman. I witnessed an astonishing event. The curtain between the Temple’s inner chambers and the Holy of Holies, where our Lord God is said to dwell, was split from the top to the bottom. Do you hear what I am saying? From top to bottom. This is impossible, for no man can reach that high. Yet it happened, without anyone touching it. Why is this important? Because it means the division between God and man has been abolished. Vanished. How? Because the great Jehovah, the One whose name may only be whispered once each year by the anointed high priest, had sent his Son to be crucified.
Really?? Why did the author feel the need to insert this little sermon right into the middle of a story? It’s not that what he said is untrue. I just wonder, did he think that the story did not speak for itself? Did he doubt his ability to effectively communicate the story of a life changed by Jesus? To be honest I can’t actually tell you the outcome of the story because that sermon was enough for me. I closed the book and read no more. It was too contrived, too preachy, too improbable that this kind of statement would have been made shortly after the death of Jesus.
Reading that book got me thinking about the trap some Christians fall into. It seems that we doubt that our lives are showing the story of a life redeemed by Christ, so we resort to telling people. When I say this, I am not at all referring to evangelism. After all, Romans 10:14 says:
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?
What I am referring to is the way we sometimes communicate with other believers. Christians are adept at saying things they think will enhance their ‘spiritual image’. We want to look like we have a Thomas Aquinas/Martin Luther kind of faith, but we aren’t really sure that we do, so we resort to telling people what kind of faith we have. Frankly, I think people are pretty astute about these things and we are only fooling ourselves about the quality of our inner life.
If we want people to see Jesus in our lives, He needs to really be there. And we have the promise that the more time we spend with Him, the more our lives will show it.
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18