The Character of a Christian Writer
By Joshua J. Masters
The standard trope of a writer’s life evokes visions of someone sitting in the lonely glow of a laptop as fingernails tap out the rhythm of a single-toned symphony, an arrangement for keyboard that results in the creation of a well-rounded, dynamic character. But what is the character of a Christian writer—not the characters we’re creating, but the character God is creating in us?
Ultimately, the call God placed on our lives to write should result in a deeper relationship with Him, a greater empowerment through the Holy Spirit, and the development of Christ-like character in our own lives. The greatest discipline in writing for God is seeking the character He wants to develop in us above the characters we want to develop in our stories.
Peter outlines that process in his second letter: By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life… And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. (2 Peter 1:3-4a NLT)
God has already given us everything we need to live a godly life of character. But what are these great promises?
A published article?
A signed contract with an agent?
A book deal?
Maybe God does have those things planned for you, but He has a greater concern. Your character.
Peter gives us a clear picture of the promises we should be seeking as he continues: These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. (2 Peter 1:4b)
Here’s a difficult truth: If our human desire for a contract or some other writing success outweighs our desire to become more Christ-like in our character, God may prolong or even deny our writing goals. This isn’t a punishment, but a protection from the world’s corruption.
So, the question we must ask ourselves again and again is, “Am I writing for Him or am I writing for me and asking Him to bless it? Is the primary goal of our writing to be drawn closer to Him? Do we use our gift as a pathway to develop our own character?
Peter gives us a clear path to evaluate and pursue that character. He starts with faith, which is only the beginning of our journey with Christ, and then asks us to make every effort to pursue seven character traits in response to God’s promises.
MORAL EXCELLENCE (v5)
To our faith we’re called to add moral excellence. The Greek word used here could also be translated, “virtue with courage.” And sometimes it takes courage to do the right thing, doesn’t it? This character trait asks us to evaluate how we respond to others and how we respond to temptation. Do our relationships in the writing industry display integrity or does our temptation toward comparison and jealousy taint our careers? The closer we draw to Christ, the more we’ll respond to others and our sin with His perspective rather than our own.
To our faith and moral excellence,
we’re told to add knowledge. Knowledge here refers to the understanding of spiritual
truth. Our writing cannot reflect the truth of God if we’re not seeking
spiritual truth in His word. Do we want to write about God or for God? If we’re
not constantly growing in the knowledge of God, we’re only writing a
misinformed opinion about God. That’s not only dangerous for us but could
mislead our readers. Do we spend as much time researching the history and
details of who God is as we do the history and details of our story?
I’d like to stop the list at knowledge,
but we’re instructed to add self-control. As we personalize our understanding
of God’s Word, we develop Christ’s character of self-control. This is more than
just avoiding sin (although that’s a part of it). Self-control is about
discipline—the discipline of prayer and investing in our relationship with God.
And if He’s truly called us to write, then it means discipline in our writing
as well. Are we gorging on an entire bag of Oreos while bingeing Batman movies
on HBO Max when we should be writing? Okay, that’s mine. Insert your own sinful
techniques of procrastination here, but our character always reveals itself in
our personal lives, our relationships, and our careers.
PATIENT ENDURANCE (v6)
Do I really need to go into why a writer needs patient endurance? Moving on …
To our *ahem* patient endurance, we seek to add godliness. This isn’t the same as moral excellence. Moral excellence is about our response to our desires and how those desires affect others. Godliness is about our personal relationship with God. Are we being transformed to be more like Christ?
How many of us want to see God transform our readers through our writing? Well, we can’t offer what we don’t have. If we’re not allowing God to continually transform us, our writing cannot have that effect on others. The first person God should change through my writing is me. You may still write a bestseller, but it will be your book not God’s.
BROTHERLY AFFECTION (v7)
The Christian life was designed to be lived in community. As introverted as some of us feel, if you’re an author for Christ, your process isn’t supposed to be solitary. There’s an incredible Christian writing community available to all of us online and in local groups. Are you invested in your community? Are you building one another up and putting the needs of others above your own? We can view others as competition, or we can be intentional about supporting and showing love to one another—even when we’re facing a deadline. Showing Christ’s love to someone always bears more fruit than completing tasks on a to-do list.
LOVE FOR EVERYONE (v7)
The final characteristic of a Christian writer (or any Christian) is a consuming compassion and love for those who don’t know Christ outside our immediate community. Does our writing, regardless of its genre, reflect the good news and promises of God? Does your life? Our first priority should be writing from our love for God, but our second should be writing from our love for people. That doesn’t come from changing our writing style. It comes from changing our heart.
Here’s our final verses from Peter: The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. (2 Peter 1:8–9 NLT)
Do we want our writing to be productive and useful for the kingdom of God? Then we must do more than develop our craft for God, we must develop our character with God.
Joshua J. Masters is a pastor, author, and speaker. He’s been featured on CBN
Television, HIS Radio, and the Light Radio Network. Josh is the author of the
Serious Writer Book of the Decade finalist,
Prayers for the Christian Patriot and is
a contributing author for Feed Your Soul with the Word of God. Josh has
also worked as an actor and crew member in the film industry (SAG/AFTRA) and
continues to have a passion for film. He lives with his wife, Gina, and Franklin
the Pup outside Greenville, South Carolina where he serves as a speaking and