Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writing Like There's No Tomorrow


"Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." —Matthew 12:34b-37

Words are a pretty big deal in the Bible. With words, God created everything. With words - and His Word, the Bible - God communicates to us. Jesus himself is the Word who became flesh. Matthew 12:37 even says that by our words we will be acquitted or condemned. It is through words that we preach the good news; it is with words that we can tear up and break down.

Words are important to anybody and everybody. But especially to us, the Christian writers. Words are our craft. They're our trade. Our entire business is with words. So if the above passage applies to anybody, it applies to us!

By our words we will be judged. Our words are just one of the different evidences of fruit in our lives. Jesus repeatedly talks about fruit, as do the Epistles; by the fruit you bear will you be known. Evil people bear bad fruit. Good people bear good fruit. That's the way it works.

So how does this apply to us?

Ask yourself this: what kind of fruit is evident in your writing? What kind of words are you speaking?

Every time I read this passage of Scripture, I'm drawn towards verse 36: we will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word we have spoken.

If you're like me, that hits hard. Because with words, it's so easy to say something carelessly. Granted, that's somewhat harder to do with writing, but still...everything counts. Whatever we do...we are to do it for Christ!

So if this is true, then we don't have time to waste, to put it bluntly. We can't waste our words! If Christ is not in what we write or speak, should we be doing it? If Christ can't be found in our current work-in-progress, should we be writing it? If we are not wholly devoted to Him who created the CONCEPT of words...what are we doing to rectify that?

But it's hard! The Bible has so much depth to it; how can we possibly compare? We don't. But we try anyway. We are to capture the echoes of our Gospel and the intangible joy of our Good News. That's what being a Christian writer is about.

We will have to answer for every careless word we speak - and every careless word we write. Every time we had an opportunity to share the Gospel in our stories but didn't; every time we waste words on something that will never last; we'll have to answer for that.

So what will we say on that day? That we didn't want to risk offending someone in our writing? I hope that you see the absurdity in this. Either we believe it or we don't; if God calls you to put something more "preachy" in your writing, then do it! Otherwise, do we really believe this at all? If we aren't willing to give up this novel to Him and write this novel FOR Him - then why claim the title of Christian writer?

Dear writers and fellow believers! I want to tell this to you as lovingly as possible, but I don't want to sugarcoat it. We cannot write without Him. He is the one who enabled us to write in the first place; so why would we, as Christian writers, write something without first committing it to Him? And if we've truly committed our writing to him, will we be writing fluff fiction? Or worse, fluff fiction with a cardboard God?

I'm not trying to guilt you or make you write something explicitly Christian. My question is, are you writing what God wants you to? Are you following His leading? If the answer is yes, then the Christian content in your writing is between you and God, not you and me.

However, my statement still stands: our lives are too short (and our Commission too great) to waste writing petty things.

Don't be afraid to write something that others will call preachy. Listen to this:

"'Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.' How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Romans 10:13-14)

They cannot hear, and thus believe, without someone preaching to them. And if we're writing typical escapist fiction that has no depth whatsoever and no meaning to the reader...how is that preaching?

It's not!

"But what if we turn them off from the Gospel?" is a typical reply. Here's the beauty of it: God's the one who opens the hearts of those ready to receive the Gospel. Not us. Our job is to preach what God tells us to. He does the rest.

So what must we do?

We must continue to write - but write for Him and write about Him. Out of the overflow of our heart our mouth speaks and our pen writes. Let us be so overflowing with Him and His goodness that our writing is bursting! Let the overflow of our heart overflow into others' hearts - so that everyone can taste, with every word they read, the glory of our majestic King!

This is your call, Christian writer! You have to write like there's no tomorrow, no words wasted, everything committed to Him who is worthy to receive everything we are.  


7 comments:

Abbey said...

I love it! I agree completely!
I was just thinking, 45 minutes ago, about this very same thing (only with music instead of writing) and then I come online and read this blog post.... I think it's great. I, for one, definitely need to think about the things I do and the things I say a lot more.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Hannah Joy said...

Woah. Excellent post. I have to think hard about what I'm writing, which is why I have quit at least one of my novels. But it's hard. You want to grab the reader with plot and intrigue and make the reader relate with indepth characters--and in the midst of all that you often forget to put God in. To do it to the glory of God rather than the author or even the reader. Thanks for the reminder.

Ninja Tim said...

I love hearing your heart for God and for writing, Jake. It's so awesome how unashamed you are to proclaim the ultimate purpose of writing: glorifying God, and Him alone.

I'm curious though: What exactly do you mean by preaching? Obviously, we're all called to proclaim God's glory, but as Paul writes, are all called to be preachers? After all, the Bible is filled with all kinds of writing: poetry, history, exposition, genealogy, etc. All proclaiming God's glory, but not necessarily all preaching.

Kristin M said...

I'm not exactly sure if I agree with everything in this peice or not, honestly. I'm not one to say any of it is wrong though, because it's your veiw, not mine. I love the thought put into this, not everyone can think so deeply and find so much meaning within writing. I admire that.

Jake said...

@Ninja Tim

Exactly so! The very breath of a Christian life is in itself preaching, so to speak. We can preach through simple action more than we can from a pulpit: living life to God's plan is, in itself, a testimony to the world. Not everyone is called to preach the Gospel, but everyone is called to spread the Gospel in whatever way God calls them.

But I would warn against ruling out preaching entirely, because some of us ARE called to literally preach.

My intention in this post is to encourage those who want to preach but don't feel that they can or should, not tell people that they should be preaching in the literal sense of the word - and to also warn them that we must always, consciously, be looking for opportunities to praise Him instead of wasting words.

Still, I may come a bit heavy on the missions side of things, so be warned. I'm passionate about missions and the Great Commission. That's why I'm in Africa, after all.

Kristin: thank you for your thoughts! Through Christ, even the simplest actions can have meaning. You can say that life is a picture, but Christ is the paint. He makes everything colorful; living with Him as your God is an adventure like none other!

Without Christ, my writing was simple escapism with little depth at all. But with Him? It's become an even greater adventure. And so, in essence, here's why I write: to invite others into the marvelous light that is Jesus Christ and His glorious Kingdom.

Philip Nelson said...

Jake,

I followed you here from Nichole's site, and I'm not sure I entirely agree with you, either. :)

I wrote most of the below at Mirriam's site, but it seems applicable here, too.

To the question of making Christian fiction "preachy", I think the answer can be found in the difference between the parables Jesus spoke, and the interpretations he gave. He used parables to hide the truth, and the interpretations to make it plain.

Similarly, I think Christian non-fiction should be more like the interpretations, while Christian fiction should be more like the parables.

That is, the purpose of Christian fiction isn’t to make the truth plain; it’s to hide it, perhaps even from the author. To put it another way, I don’t think a Christian author should feel like they have to make the truth plain in their stories. Rather, they should write out of what God put in them, and see what happens.

One example is the Lord of the Rings. The theme of that story (and continued from the Hobbit) is this scripture:

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (I Cor. 1:27-29)

The hobbits were the weak and foolish things of Middle Earth, but they confounded the things that were mighty and wise. They had more in them than it seemed.

The Lord of the Rings was written to that principle; the whole series is, in a sense, a Scripture illustration. But it’s not “evangelical” in the stereotypical sense.

It is, however, evangelical in the true sense of the word: which literally means a good message, or good information. Good information doesn’t have to be explicitly labeled to be good; it can remain hidden in a story, underpinning everything that happens in it, like in the Lord of the Rings.

I want to write stories like that. :) The Lord of the Rings has been written; I don’t need to write that again, but there are plenty of stories that could be written to the principles of God, to hide good information in them, perhaps good information the author didn’t know was there, but information that found its way into the story because it was hidden in the author already.

If you’d like, check out my first book, SmorgaSword. It’s twelve short stories in ebook format, but you can read the first three for free in the preview on Amazon.

I hope it’s something like what I wrote above. :)

Varon said...

To those called to preach, preach it brother! Preach it, sister!

But preaching is not necessary for God to be in a novel, in the same way God can be clearly seen in the mountains, or the ocean, or the other wonders of His creation. Beauty is His invention.
And the great stories are often found to be great for they echo, or tell of the great universal truths of the Ultimate Truth in Christ. Those truths are from God, and show God as they are shown in the story.

Just like some are called to preach, some are called to write books that go beyond the standard books, even if they're not overtly preachy.