What is the Bible by Rob Bell – Part 15
What is the Bible?
Part 15: Everybody Loves Stuart and Luscious
In my previous writing, Part 14, I gave you a parable and invited you to interpret it.
And you did.
My tumblr box has been jammed with your theories and insights and perspectives. I can’t begin to tell you how enjoyable it’s been reading them. I’ve laughed out loud multiple times. I’ve learned that you, my dear readers, are clever and brilliant and funny and profound and really, really random and strange. In a beautiful sort of way.
So, before we get to just a few of my favorites, a question: Do you want to know what I had in mind when I wrote the parable?
Does it matter? What if you learn what my authorial intent was and you don’t like it? What if you think your interpretation is better? What if your interpretation inspired you and moved you and convicted you and caused you to see things in a new way and become a better person-and then you hear my intent and your first thought is “Oh. Huh. Boring.” (By the way, do you have to know the author’s intent to interpret something? What if you’re way off but it’s still meaningful? What if you completely missed the author’s intent but your interpretation was still true?)
We’ll return to that question in a bit, but for now, a few of my favorites.
I loved this one. This is the person who isn’t messing around, who gets the job done, who you want by your side in a crisis:
floridagirlinseattle asked you:
C party at best, so many rookie mistakes 1 Kegs are messy jello shots are neat and get libations going faster 2 Fridge? Weak The extra freezer in the garage would be a far more honorable record to set 3 Luscious needs no commentary 4 Nothing is on fire? Things haven’t even started getting fun yet What does one do? Clear out the house disarm the gun sit around the kitchen island make some quesadillas to sober him up and show him what he was looking for all along was already his
Make some quesadillas to sober him up. Classic. Seattle is all the better for this floridagirl. Very practical, funny, and then it ends with a beautiful flourish (A subtle reference to Luke 15?). Well done.
This next one made me laugh the hardest. I immediately liked this guy, if for nothing more than how bold this one is:
johnfiorello asked you:
*rage music starts playing in the background and I karate kick everyone in slow motion as stuart grabs his AK and tries to shoot me. in the end, everyone is dead but me, and I walk away as the house explodes behind me. I don’t look back*
Rage music? Everyone’s dead? The house explodes? (By the way, I can’t help but picture Danny McBride reading it…). I’m giving it the BeenPlayingTooManyVideoGames award.
The WowThat’sBrilliantIHadn’tThoughtOfThat award goes to my friend Science Mike:
randomipaddoodles asked you:
Our world is full of very serious problems that produce suffering and end lives needlessly. Our time would be better spent working to help others than picking apart each other’s ideologies. The literal or non-literalness of scripture is like the plant. Watering the plant can wait until the drunks are safely off the roof and the AK-47 is unloaded. -Science Mike
My favorite reference to another author:
prosser814 asked you:
And this mess is so big And so deep and so tall, We cannot pick it up. There is no way at all! Dr. Seuss
Most random question related to a random detail:
maddoxdustin asked you:
Wait, Rob, did the kid in the fridge set the world record?!
The RandomJesusQuote award involving a cigar:
erinraewatson asked you:
Post 14: perhaps you should take the plank out of your own eye before taking the cigar out of stuart’s mouth.
Most enthusiastic reader of a parable ever:
gsissonworld asked you:
Can you make this into a movie, please? Because I really want to see how it turns out. So far, it’s a fantastic script!
Reader most likely to own the LOST DVD box set:
boisil asked you:
But what if you’ve not gone away? What if you’ve actually just gone next door? What if you’ve seen all of this happening? How long do you leave it before you go in and speak to Stuart?
The obligatory ParallelToBreakingBad interpretation:
myztic asked you:
Stuart looks like a reincarnation of Jesse Pinkman from “Breaking Bad”. Stuart is having an aha moment!! So he has an opportunity to maybe introduce his friends or water the plant, get a job and pay for the home and property damages. There are so many good things that can come out of this dreadful event. It’s a wake-up moment!!
The HelpfulReaderThinkingOutLoudAward goes to
wgpatrick asked you:
Something about the den must be very important. Also, he should hire his nephew as his personal bookie instead of his housekeeper.
One reader who made me wonder if we’re talking about the same parable:
m30johnson80 asked you:
I’m not sure what the first thing would be, but the second thing would be to get rid of the murder weapon, third would be to destroy the evidence, fourth would involve a feasible alibi and a passport to a country without extradition laws…
(Extra points, of course, for the word extradition, not to mention the phrase feasible alibi.)
In the category for PersonYouKnowIsABadassAfterOnlyReadingTheFirstLineOfTheirInterpretation we have a clear winner:
denmacrae asked you:
I would make him clean up the mess cause I pick up for no one. I do not judge others as to what I would do. I would not be angry at him but at the things that were destroyed. I would let him know it breaks my heart that he would think so little of me to let my things be destroyed.
This one is great, I just don’t know who Isaac is.
joncherston asked you:
Scenario 2: The plant holds the cure for cancer and was left to me by my recently deceased father. It Isaac causally the most important thing and I’m an idiot for leaving it with a teenager : )
I give this one big points for being equally brief and unexpected:
janhannig asked you:
I think that is how some people see God. The world is a mess and he cares about irrelevant stuff.
And the L. Ron Hubbard award goes to
jimrogers84 asked you:
The lived in a post-human community called “Viridiplantae” where the highest moral code was to care for the world of plants. Of course, the morality of caring for things like houses and other objects were the furthest from their consciousness. People were just one step above the cars in the social order. The moral is that sometimes the things we find immoral are much less important than a potted plant!
And then this one is fantastic:
calcnerd76 asked you:
In this story, you are God. (Wow! That statement requires unpacking). Stuart represents humanity. Your relation to Stuart is key; it speaks to the kinship bond between you. You trust Stuart, though things go awry. When you see that things have gotten out of hand, your first concern is your relationship with Stuart, not the mess he has made. The mess can be cleaned in due time, but you’ll need his help. You must love, and in response he may love you back, desiring to fix the hell he has made.
As well as this one…
bwjordan asked you:
I hope I am not getting caught up in minutiae. I know you are not. That’s just what the parable of Stuart reminded me of. I know you’ve taken some criticism recently for some of your views, and I know criticism can hurt. Just know that there are people out there that get it. Jesus had a lot more to say about grace, love, and understanding than he did about homosexuality, condemnation, or boiling a goat in its mother’s milk. May you continue to reach the lost.
Check this one out:
celiakozlowski asked you:
Stu’s Everyman, beloved child of God & he’s screwed up, like we all do. Pointing out the minor fault, not yelling & threatening to throttle the little toe rag, gives him something he can apologize for & fix. He starts with that & goes on to get the drunk friends off the roof. The friends pitch in to help. Pretty soon the whole world’s restored. I’ve been there. Cheerios & ping pong balls everywhere! Son did apologize and make some efforts. Friends picked up some trash. Mom cleaned up the rest.
I love it-little toe rag? Should I know what that is, besides a term describing Stu, as you call him? And you’ve been there? Where? Does this place you’ve been involve Cheerios and Ping Pong balls?
And then one last one, the HeShootsHeScores!Award goes to
thesemiheather asked you:
About Stuart: It’s like walking up to a homeless person and asking them if they’ve read their Bible lately. So, their life’s in chaos, they’re probably hungry, tired, dirty, and just wanting a couple dollars to buy a burger so they don’t go to sleep completely starving, and you ask them if they’ve read a book. It’s a grand gesture in missing the point.
These, folks, are my readers.
A few notes:
First, a number of you pointed out that the name Stuart is Old English for steward, someone who’s job was to take care of the house or estate. I hadn’t thought of that. I write a parable about somebody entrusted with the care of a house and I name him Stuart for no reason other than it popped into my head… Interesting how the subconscious works, isn’t it?
Second, I totally threw you with that last line about the plant. I had considered having it end with
And you say to Stuart:
So that you are left hanging, but I threw the curve in there to see what you’d do with it. And you did a lot! I’ve got another one coming in a few weeks that will be variation on that-I’m already looking forward to seeing what you do with that one.
Those two points out of the way, let’s get to my intentions. My point?
This will take while.
This will take a while.
The entire narrative is driven by Stuart becoming a steward. You could have found lots of people to take care of your house, but you chose him. You want to see your nephew flourish as he grows up and matures.
Will there be consequences to his actions? Of course! You’re not a pushover, and it is your house, and there is mud on the white carpet. Stuart will have to face the consequences of his actions-enforced by you, by the law, by his parents, that list is long.
If there weren’t consequences, then you would have cheated Stuart by not giving him actual responsibility.
Without consequences the whole thing would have been a shame, a fake, a simulation (A bit like dudes who tell you how good they are at football…and then you find out they’re talking about Madden. Which you play with your thumbs, on your couch.)
It has to be real-a real house, real responsibility, a real AK-47, a real girl named Luscious (Okay, her name may be fake. All the dancers have stage names…).
I say this about consequences because what drives you is Stuart becoming the kind of person who can handle the responsibility, growing in wisdom and character and maturity, and the point of any judgment or consequences is to help him in that. You are in it for the long haul with Stuart. This is what drives you, this is what drives the narrative, and this is why the story is interesting. How will Stuart respond?
For this reason, your priority probably won’t be finding out who Luscious is and where the AK-47 came from and why the dog smells like beer and is cross-eyed pacing in circles in the upstairs bathroom. However important those are, you may not get to them for a while. Stuart may not be ready…
Is this why slavery isn’t condemned in the Bible?
Is this why polygamy isn’t forbidden in the Bible?
Is this why certain barbaric and primitive actions and practices aren’t prohibited?
You can’t deal with the entire mess all at once.
You’d probably rank things quite quickly. Maybe without even realizing you were doing it. First you’d get the kids off the roof because that’s a matter of life and death. Then maybe you’d ask Is the kid in the refrigerator OK? Then you’d probably move on to illegal activity, probably because you’re kind of on the hook for that. (You’d also be angry, I’m assuming. Perfectly normal. Especially about your Porsche. It’s a Porsche, right? Or is it a Tesla? Or maybe it’s an…Oldsmobile!).
However you went about it, there would be something happening underneath everything else, something that is more important to you than all the rest of it:
You and Stuart making things right together.
And so you go step by step,
inviting Stuart, commanding Stuart, calling Stuart, reminding Stuart that you’ve give him this responsibility and now it’s time to step up,
step by step by step…
Which brings me to you…did you turn your life around and get it all perfected and cleaned up and reformed and redeemed in one day? Or is it taking a while?
What it is that tells you that you’re not done, that it’s not over, that there’s hope, that you are in a process of becoming a particular kind of person?
Where does that sense, that intuition, that force, that feeling, that awareness come from?
What would you call that?
What name would you give it?
What is it?
One more note about parables: I could have simply told you these things. You could have read them and either found it compelling or not. But instead you sent me a massive number of interpretations-interpretations that you’d clearly put a fair bit of thought into. Did you notice how the parable engaged a different part of your brain? The next time you ask why Jesus isn’t more clear about something in the gospels, remember that…it’s about the discussion, the dialogue, the dance…
Once again, we’re just getting started. There will be more parables to come.
Source: Rob Bell on Twitter: @realrobbell or Tumblr: http://robbellcom.tumblr.com/