It makes a nice case study, I think. When *you* saw the story, did you take it as a moral fable, a parable, or as a factual account? Did you assume it was true or suspect it was fiction? And when you found others were pretty sure it's all made up, did your opinion or feelings about this story change, at all?
For me, the moral lesson didn't change. It's still a vividly illustrated reminder about one of Jesus' more challenging teachings. What changed for me - because a part of me had been hoping it had really happened, at first - was that the story itself became non-interesting. The moral lesson is heard before, many times, but if someone dismissed a worship service for their moral failure, on the spot, that's a story I'd want to know more about, fervently. But if an entire church had been handled that way, I think we'd be hearing more soon, one way or another... And that may be the chief difference.
If the moral lesson is all that matters, then the story can still work the same way, to a point. But if life practice and human interaction is more intriguing to you, as it usually is to me, then the "Jeremiah Steepek" story becomes infinitely more meaningful IFF it actually happened.
Did a pastor do this? Should a pastor do this? How well did it work, short-term vs long-term? Was the church more helped or hurt by this stunt? Did Jeremiah stay very long with that congregation? Would he do it differently if he could do it over again? Was anyone else inspired to impact their own churches after hearing his story? In what ways, and how well did that go?
Obviously, since this story doesn't hold water, I can't push these questions too far... but those are the *kinds* of questions I think we should want to ask IFF we believed this had actually happened. And wouldn't those stories be far more helpful, far more practical, and thus far more impactful than a merely verbal reminder about principles we already know very well?
Draw your own parallels if you wish. Today I'm not going any farther than "Steepek".
Did it matter to you, if you saw the piece, when you realized it was fiction? If so, how?
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