Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Story Would You Tell To Jesus?

A long time ago, before storytellers had easy access to pen, paper, and computers, most storytellers spoke their stories. Jesus, for example, told parables to crowds of people, which meant He was physically present with every story.

Modern writers appear to have lost this connection between storytelling and speaking. It is as if we have come to see stories as separate entities that are detached from us and come to life through words on a page. I think this can cause moral confusion.

Writers occasionally have questions such as: Is the violence in this action story too graphic? Should I put foul language in the mouths of the villains? How far should I go with sexual content? And so on.

It seems to me that these questions are a lot easier to answer if we understand that our stories are a part of us. The words on the pages have to be spoken by us, through a pen or keyboard, the same as if they came out of our mouths. This does not mean, however, that our stories must avoid dark or adult subjects.

Jesus told a lot of sweet stories, including one about a kind shepherd caring for his lambs and another about a woman who found her lost coin. Yet He also told stories involving murderers (Matthew 21:33-46), prostitution (Luke 15:11-32), and a man tormented in hell (Luke 16:19-31).

A story involving murder can be just as wholesome as a story about a kind shepherd caring for his lambs. What matters is the specific way we tell a story. Every word should be tested to see if it is worthy of the standards of wisdom, purity, and excellence that God expects of us.

Imagine Jesus coming to you and asking you to tell Him a story out loud. How would you tell it? Would you describe the gory details of violence? Would you say foul language while speaking bad guy dialogue? Would you talk about sexually explicit things?

These would not be questions we could take lightly if Jesus was sitting in front of us as we spoke, His eyes fixed on us expectantly, and His ears waiting to hear us use the storytelling gift that He gave us.

Actually, for all Christians, Jesus is sitting in front of us every time we write, listening to us tell story the same as if we were speaking it out loud to Him. What story are you going to tell to Him? Answering this question and those related to it, and seeing storytelling in light of our answers, should greatly help us have moral clarity as we write.

What are your answers? Do you think your answers will cause you to look differently at some aspects of your writing?

2 comments:

  1. I can't believe I never commented on this post! This is such an important concept for writers, and I'm glad you wrote about it, Jonathan! Thank you :)

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    1. Thank you, Amy! I'm glad you think so. :)

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