In Ephesians 4:29 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
As a writer I’ll apply this to my pen (or keyboard) as well: whatever I write, be it fiction or nonfiction, I want it to be useful for edification, I want it to minister grace.
A while back Kaci Hill wrote this fantastic post on “Recurring Things That Shouldn’t Be,” pointing out patterns in Christian fiction that, instead of edifying, tear down. Sometimes they do it just by building into our readers an idea of something dysfunctional as normal, as acceptable. Ideas, themes, are powerful. Fiction is powerful because it embodies ideas; the best fiction helps us experience its themes, emotions, beliefs. So as fiction writers, we ought to be careful about what goes into our stories.
“Edify” literally means to “build up.” We are to love each other enough to want to build something strong in one another’s lives. As artists and storytellers, ours is a unique role in the architecture of the soul. I don’t ever want to take that for granted.
(A voracious childhood reader, I speak from experience: my own foundations, in emotions and worldview and mind, were strongly influenced by books and their authors. I’m not overstating our potential impact.)
We as Christians can get just as hot under the collar about censorship as anybody else; we want the right to say what we want to say. And we should have it. But for us the main issue shouldn’t be whether we’re allowed to write, say, sex scenes or graphic violence or occultic dalliance or even Amish romance.
We should consider our readers; we should ask, are we loving them? What are we building into their lives? Or, conversely, what are we undermining, tearing down?
This really goes beyond the sex-and-violence issues too. Are we loving our readers in how we depict men and women? In how we depict God, struggles, doubt, faith (or elves, dragons, wizards)? Light and darkness? The question should not be, “Can I write this?” The question should be, “Does this edify? Does it minister grace?”
The answers to those questions won’t always be easy or obvious. You’ve heard of tough love–sometimes the most loving thing to write is also the most scalding. But if we can answer the questions with “Yes,” I think we are one step closer to facing God and hearing Him say, “Gold, silver, precious stones. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”