Do we have greater expectations of Christians than we do of other people? I think so. Just recently I have found the behaviour of some Christians hard to understand.
In one case, a Christian friend and I had a difference of opinion that ultimately resulted in severing the friendship. That argument and what was said, was something between us and no-one else. To me it was something between the two of us and it went no further. It didn’t concern anyone else. However she chose to relate details of the argument to others. As we know the person telling the story invariably tells it from their point of view, so it looks like they are the one wronged. Listen to anyone tell the story of an argument and you’ll see what I mean.
In another situation another Christian related a couple of incidents to me. What struck me as she related the tale was the bitterness and resentment towards the other party involved in the dispute. The situation had happened many years ago but she had not let go of it. Looking at it from the outside, it is often easy to see there was probably right and wrong on both sides.
Even though in each case the people involved were mature Christians, they struggled with their emotions and behaved in a manner that I found disappointing. The truth is we have greater expectations of Christians. Then I realised how often my actions and behaviour are also disappointing to God, to others and to myself. How often I let Christ down and do not live up to those greater expectations.
When you look at the bible it never shies away from showing us people’s faults and times when they fail Jesus. Think of some of the disputes we see in the New Testament. There is Paul when he challenges Peter over his attitudes and hypocrisy regarding Gentiles, Galatians 2:11-21. Or Paul and Barnabas when they disagree over John Mark and his role in ministry and so go their separate ways, Acts 15:36-41. Yet no one would deny Paul was a mighty servant of Jesus. God is always able to use any situation, even disputes, to further His kingdom.
So what does this have to do with writing? Whether we are writing fiction or nonfiction we need to show complex characters not stereotypes. Characters who struggle to make decisions, who struggle to get it right, characters that disagree and make unwise choices. As readers we need to see that even when Christians do not act as we might expect, when they harbour grudges and resentment or gossip about others, His plans are not thwarted. He can still use those imperfect people to further His kingdom.
A minister once told me and the rest of his congregation ‘if you are not having struggles sin your Christian life, then there is something wrong. Satan doesn’t think you're worth bothering with because you’re not an effective Christian.’ Let’s come back to Paul. How often did he struggle between the human nature and the godly nature and do things he didn’t want to do? Don’t believe me? Have a look at his words in Romans 7: 14-25.
In some Christian books I have read in the past, making the right decision and behaving in a godly manner comes too easily to the Christian. That makes it hard for a lot of our readers to identify with if they don’t find the Christian life and making the right choice that easy. The truth is the Christian life can be a struggle at times. So it is important we show the conflict and struggles that go on within, the time when characters doubt and make wrong decisions as well as the ultimate triumphs. I’d love to hear examples of recent books where you have found the main character has made unwise decisions and struggled with doing the right thing, while still being able to be used by God or changed by God.
Dale writes fiction and poetry and had recently submitted a 365 day devotional /commentary tentatively titled A Day at a Time to a publisher. Now she's working on another novel. You can find out more about Dale at www.daleharcombe.com
and you might like to follow her blog at Write and Read with Dale http://orangedale.livejournal.com/