You are a living parable.
We are living parables.
As we are well aware, Jesus regularly taught in parables to explain the Kingdom of God. He used common, everyday stories to illustrate the nature and reality of the Kingdom, which he said “is at hand.” His disciples could relate to the stories he told, because they experienced those stories each day of their lives.
Think about the parable of the net (Matt 13:47-50). Several of his disciples were fishermen – they could easily visualize a man throwing out a net and bringing in a large haul of different types of fish, both good and bad, which needed to be separated. They lived it. And they could connect it with the end of the age when angels would “separate the evil from the righteous.”
Not only did Jesus teach in parables with the stories he told. His life was a parable. Through his actions his disciples were able to see what the Kingdom of God is like. His life was such a perfect parable of the Kingdom of God, that at the end of his life when Philip asked, “Lord, show us the Father,” Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:8-9). His disciples saw the Father through Jesus. And so do we.
Well, Jesus continues to speak today through parables…through the story of your life. Through the story of each of our lives. People are watching, and people are “reading” our lives. As we walk with Jesus and live out the Kingdom of God, people are able to see aspects of the Kingdom and our King that they would not be able to see elsewhere.
And this is why we believe that it is so important and so valuable to live among the unreached…as living parables. About three years ago my wife and I moved into a largely Arab Muslim community in Southern California and have sought to build meaningful relationships with our neighbors. We have lived life with them and allowed them to see our lives…our family, our work, our prayer life, our struggles, our successes, our highs, our lows. They see us. And they watch. They read the parable of our lives.
Though at times our work and witness here can feel futile, with little apparent “fruit,” I was encouraged the other day as I sat on the floor in a local mosque with my Syrian Muslim friend. We had just spent about 20 minutes praying side by side, both of us crying out to God and desiring his will to be done. We then started sharing about how things were going in our family lives and what God was teaching us lately. Then at one point he said, “Brandon, my wife talks about you and Sara all the time with her friends. We see how you guys raise your girls and we are amazed. I remember one time when the girls wanted to get some sweets, and Sara told them ‘no,’ and they just said, ‘OK.’ That was it. That never happens! So my wife tells her friends, ‘It’s not true that all American families let their kids do anything and let them grow up straying away and being bad. I know a family who raises their kids different…even better than you!'”
I was very encouraged, realizing that he is observing our lives and seeing things that are different, which ultimately point to the relationship we have with our King. And I realized that such experiences could not happen if we did not intentionally place ourselves within their community and develop those relationships which allow us to be a living parable to them. Now I pray that the parable that they read through our lives is one that accurately communicates the realities of the Kingdom. And I pray that as they read the parable, that they too would come to embrace the King and His Kingdom and enjoy his blessings forevermore!