Part of making that move from spectator to participant usually involves our identification with certain characters in the story. We have to be able to relate to someone within the story. The good story teller helps us to feel that character's pain and joy, to know what it is like to be in their situation, even bringing us to see ourselves in them.
Most often we find ourselves identifying with the heroes in the story; sometimes a tragic hero but the hero nonetheless. We identify with the good and honorable characters who inspire us because we believe that we must have that same good within us somewhere; that we would have their courage or their perseverance if we faced the same odds.
But it takes an especially gifted story teller to cause us to identify with the bad guy or evil villain in a story. Who reads a comic book and identifies with Doc Oc more than Spider-man? Or more darkly, who reads about the Holocaust and sees themselves in the Nazi guard rather than the Holocaust survivor? The same is true as we read the stories of scripture. As you read the stories of conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees in the gospels, how often do you come away from those passages thinking "Wow, I'm really just like the Phariesees." We have erected all kinds of defenses that keep us from seeing ourselves in the evil characters of a story. We hold them at arm's length seeing in them as something other and different from us...
...unless a story teller is gifted enough to find away around those initial defenses and show us a true pictures of ourselves that we can't deny. This is precisely what the prophet Nathan does in 2 Samuel 12. (Read the whole story in 2 Samuel 11:1-12:15. You can read just Nathan's parable to David here.) Nathan tells a story which gets around David's defenses and justifications of his sin and allows him to clearly see the injustice of what he has done with Bathsheba. God's word to David through Nathan cuts through David's skewed perception of himself and allows David to see himself as God sees him. Immediately upon seeing the situation clearly, David does the only acceptable thing, he repents.
The irony is that even as we read this story; even as we hear Nathan's story deconstruct David's defenses we probably have not allowed our own walls of security to be torn down. Which character in the story did you see yourself in the most; Nathan or David? Do you imagine that you are the one who brings God's word to others or the one who needs to repent? As a pastor, there is no question that I identify with Nathan. I certainly want to imagine that I am one who always speaks God's word bolbly and prophetically to those who need to hear it, even it is someone in a position of power and influence. But as a pastor, I must also know that too often I am the one in power to whom God's word needs to be boldly and prophetically spoken. I am the one who needs God's word to pierce all my defenses. I am the sinner who needs to repent.
Of course, when we stop to think about it we know that in the Chuch we are always both. We must repent of our own sin and we must also speak God's word to the sin of our world. We are saved sinners, wounded healers, rescued rescuers. We are both Nathan and David. May God send the Church Nathans to show us where we have been as blind as David. May God lead us to repentance like David's so that we might fulfill our prophetic role like Nathan.