Writer Training Course 3, Lesson 3
You Build Them Up by Showing
The Difference Between Good and Evil
The world is full of good and evil. This includes not only people but also their thoughts, deeds, motives, and movements. These are never neutral. Either they conform to God or they oppose Him. There is no middle ground and there is no neutral thought or deed. However, most people are not able to differentiate good and evil from each other. Someone has to show them what is what.
The writer builds up his readers by making the distinction clear between the good and the evil, and also by motivating them to pay the cost for choosing that which is good.
The human life is never free of thoughts or actions. Even the physically paralysed person is not free mental activity. Human life is permeated with mental and physical action. The sinful nature that man has inherited from Adam sees to it that the thoughts and deeds that come naturally to man are evil. So much so that many times what people consider as most noble might be terribly evil and sinful when examined from a divine viewpoint.
This is why a writer is called upon to build up people by showing what is good and what is evil. He does it by doing three things: by developing discernment, by developing commitment, and also by putting godly people in touch with each other.
BY DEVELOPING DISCERNMENT: The ability to discern between good and bad does not come easily, specially because of man’s inclination to sin and also because of his spiritual blindness. Further, using clever methods, in every generation Satan projects himself as an angle of light, adding to the difficulty of distinguishing what is what.
Added to this is the increasing range of workable human activities. Things are becoming possible in every generation that were unheard of in the earlier generations. For example, abortion — sanctioned by governments and performed in government run hospitals — was not heard of a few generations ago, but it is taking place today all over the world. The fact of easy availability of abortion today blinds many people to the unethical and criminal nature of this practice. This is blindness more pronounced in people born into our generation — they have no background or insights in these subjects. They have been seeing this, and other such practices, as a normal day to day activity, and thus they have no idea about the ethics involved. It is here that the writer steps in.
The writer not only denounces the evils of his generation, but also helps people to develop discernment about what is acceptable and what is not. He instills a set of values and norms in his readers using which they will be able to face not only things that they know, but also thoughts, movements, and activities that come up for the first time in their generation.
BY DEVELOPING COMMITMENT: Knowing the difference between good and evil does not automatically guarantee that people with opt for good. Choosing good and rejecting evil is painful, and many times people prefer the path of least resistance. Even if they do not aggressively choose the evil, many of them try to remain neutral by not advocating the good. In spiritual matters there is no neutrality. If one is not for God, he is automatically against Him. Thus it is essential to develop a commitment in people.
The writer should write in such a way that it creates a passion in the hearts of people to abandon evil and at the same time choose what is good. Further, you should be able to develop a passion in their hearts so that they advocate and advance the choice of good among the children of God — and even among those who are yet outside the fold!
BY PUTTING IN TOUCH WITH EACH OTHER: Even though you might be using gas stove or electric heaters for cooking in your house, you must surely be acquainted with firewood and coal. When a fire is lit using them, the firewood or the coal should placed in close contact with each other. Separate them, and the fire goes out fast. The same is the case with human life. We all need each other.
People need fellowship with others to sustain the kindling and glowing of their spiritual life. Put a couple of zealous believers, and their passion will flare up. Separate them from each other, and very soon most of them will fade away from their commitment. Just as evil people need company to sustain them in their sinful deeds, the good and the spiritual also need others to sustain their faith and commitment.
You Build Them Up by Not Praising Evil
Spoken words vanish fast, but the written word endures for long. This is not to imply that one can be careless in speech, but to remind that one has to be extra cautious when one writes. The written word goes to hundreds of readers, perhaps even to thousands or tens of thousands. Statements coming from writers, specially from writers of repute, are often accepted with great reverence. Consequently, what you say in print has long lasting effect. It can build up people, but at the same time it has the power to send people to eternal hellfire. Write with care. You build up people by never praising evil, and by never questioning the good.
BY NEVER PRAISING EVIL: Evil is evil, yet the fallen man has a fascination at least for some forms of evil. This is why one hears statement like, “It is impossible to live if one abides by all what the Scriptures demand”. People who drop this kind of statements here and there are always looking for an excuse for indulging in evil — and the condoning tone of a Christian writer might be all what they need to strengthen their evil inclinations.
Further, many who have no idea of evil get into it when someone in a position of authority praises it. Even if he does not desire it, the writer is always in a position elevated over others and therefore if he praises any evil, directly or indirectly, it immediately opens up the way for the innocent to indulge in it. Therefore, DO NOT ever praise, appreciate, or speak good of people, movements, activities, or thoughts that are evil in any way. Your pen as well as your writings are sacred, and do not use them to sanction or elevate evil to the level of the sacred things of life.
BY NEVER QUESTIONING WHAT IS GOOD: All good might not look good on the surface. One requires a lot of spiritual discernment and maturity to recognize things that are inherently good. This means that many times things that are right, glorifying to God, and of inherent value might not look or be recognized as good. This perplexes many, and what they need is assurance not further doubt.
Consider the example of young Joseph — one of the most innocent persons mentioned in Bible. On the human plane everything that happened to him from the day he set out to meet his brothers was bad. Grief came not only to him, but also to his father. What’s worse, when he ran away from lustful activities, he was jailed on charges of attempted rape — even without a trial. However, the divine blueprint that controlled all of this was directing everything into a good and blessed direction.
We understand this today because the story has already come to a culmination — now we can look back and discern what is what. However, this was not the way Joseph could perceive it. He did not know how the story is going to end up. The most that he could know is that God is in control, and therefore he does not have to worry about his destiny.
There are many like Joseph today. What they see happening in their righteous lives are not meaningful in themselves. They keep making choices for God, but the results do not look very encouraging. This can perplex even the greatest spiritual giant. It is a moment of spiritual weakness, and if anyone questions these things at this time in front of that person it might be sufficient to break him down completely. Many are there who have become backsliders because of the stupid and foolish words of others.
Whenever a believer questions in front of others things that are good, he opens up the way for the spiritual destruction of at least some people — his listeners. Since the impact of a writer continues for generations, and since it reaches numerous people, he should NEVER questions anything that is good. He might not understand many things, but he should keep these questions to his heart and ask them to God instead of destroying the faith of others.
A writer builds up others by never praising evil and by never questioning good things. He never elevates the profane to the level of the sacred, nor discusses the sacred in such languages and tones that reduces them to the level of the profane.
You Build Up by Motivating
Man’s natural tendency is to avoid work and take the easiest path, the path of least resistance. Of course you might say that there have been many exceptions to this. True, there are always some who are highly motivated to take up the toughest path, but they are always in the minority. Whether it is the physical realm or the spiritual, the natural tendency is to take the path of least resistance. The right walk, however, requires a lot of work, and such efforts cannot be sustained without proper motivation.
A Christian writer builds up people by motivating them to be committed to the truth, to do things helpful to all, to develop hobbies, habits, and attitudes that are helpful to others.
BY MOTIVATING THEM TO BE COMMITTED TO TRUTH: Truth is not always pleasant, nor is adherence to truth always easy. The world despises people who try to be honest, and many times rewards them with insults, injuries, and even punishment. Students face this problem frequently in our country. Cheating in school and college exams has become widespread. Further, the marks given to them for laboratory exams is often arbitrary and based upon their contacts (or the influence of their family) upon the examiners. In such a situation adherence to truth, honesty, and integrity is often painful for the student.
Not only for students, but almost for anyone in any profession, adherence to truth often results in punishment. Yet to truth and to truth alone should a Christian adhere. This needs quite a lot of motivation, and that also on a continuous basis. This is where the Christian writer rises to the task. He builds up people by motivating them to be committed to the truth, come what may.
The way in which a Christian writer motivates people to adhere to truth or anything else mentioned in this serious differs from writer to writer, but two things dominate the content. The Word of God, and the example of other Christians who walked this path before. The Word of God supplies the foundation for a balanced outlook. The examples in it illustrate these truths. The examples of other Christians supplies the last factor needed to further illustrate these truths. Using all the available means, the Christian writer builds up people by motivating them to be committed to truth.
BY MOTIVATING THEM TO DO THINGS HELPFUL TO ALL: A Christian lives and grows in his spiritual life not only for his own sake but also for the sake of helping others. Many Christians know this, but have no idea of how they could be of help to others. At the same time, there are many Christians who, surprisingly, do not have the faintest idea that they need to help others. The Christian writer must enlighten both kinds of people.
People who want to help others can do so in numerous ways. Plenty of principles and guidelines are given in the Scriptures. The writer must expound these principles using the idioms of the present generation, and illustrate them using the problems which people face today. It is not sufficient to narrate the story of the good Samaritan these days, but it is also necessary to place the principle and its illustration in the context of every generation.
It is surprising that many Christians are blissfully ignorant of their obligation to help others. They seem to have never noticed passages that speak about ministering to others, to work for the edification of others, and also the passages remind that everyone is in need of receive help from others. Probably none has ever explained these things to them. It is therefore your duty as a Christian writer to explain these things to them. Not only should you explain the need to help others, but you should also show the ways in which they can approach this task.
BY MOTIVATING THEM TO DEVELOP HOBBIES, HABITS, ATTITUDES HELPFUL TO THEM: Every person has certain hobbies, habits, and attitudes whether he is conscious of these or not. Some of these are good while others are harmful. What is common between hobbies, habits and attitudes is that the person possessing or practising these does so unconsciously and without having to force himself to act in that manner.
Consider the hobby of stamp collection. While it might be a bore or a difficult chore for the average person, it is a matter of great joy and excitement for the hobbyist. He does not have to force himself to do it. The interest, enthusiasm, and actions follow automatically from him. The same is the case with every other hobby that people have. It acts as a strong force, overcoming all the barriers of time and tiredness.
A person’s hobby soon becomes a self-generated force. This force, however, can be used in ways that aid the spiritual life and growth of individual believers. This is where a writer can help them.
The writer builds up people first by motivating them to develop hobbies that aid their spiritual life. For example, if a believer can be induced to collect different versions of the Bible for comparative study of each portion that he reads, he might become very good at clarifying passages that are obscure in most translations. Another might become an avid church history fan, a hobby that will help his spiritual insight. Another might be encouraged to become a dedicated listener to taped Bible studies. There are numerous hobbies that might aid the spiritual life. Any hobby that contributes to spiritual growth is better than those that do no such thing, and Christians should be encouraged to pick them up.
In the same way, any habit that contributes positively to Christian life is worth picking up in comparison to others that do not. Take the example of some people who are in the habit of enclosing a gospel tract (or a tract meant for Christians) with all their correspondence. Only eternity will reveal the tremendous fruits of this habit.
Similarly, certain attitudes contribute greatly to spiritual stability and growth. For example, the attitude of LIVE AND LET LIVE is very helpful to every growing Christian. The attitude of firmness in essentials and that of toleration in non essentials is another good example. A Christian writer can contribute greatly to the fostering of these attitudes.
A Christian writer therefore helps to build up people by encouraging them to develop hobbies, habits, and attitudes that are helpful to their growth.
You Help Them by Instilling
Honesty, Objectivity, and Integrity
Honesty, objectivity and integrity seem very good and interesting in theory, but embracing or developing them in our personal lives is not easy in any way. Honesty requires not only that one refrain from speaking lies, but also that one view and evaluate EVERYTHING honestly. This requires one to say “I was wrong”, or that “It is the mistake of MY son” when one’s human nature prompts one to blame it on someone else. It requires that once accept one’s weaknesses, foolishness, neglects and blunders to oneself, to God, and also to people when needed.
Objectivity requires that one look and evaluate things not on the basis of emotions, but on the basis of firm norms and standards. Emotion should not be allowed to cloud or colour judgement. Integrity requires that one’s faith, speech, and conduct should match with each other. All aspects of one’s life should fit well with each other and there should be no contradiction.
A life of honesty, objectivity, and integrity is not easy, but such a life is essential for a fruitful Christian life. The Christian writer should write in such a way, and promote such reading material, that these things are encouraged.
THE ULTIMATE AIM OF EVERY WRITER SHOULD BE THE SALVATION OF THE LOST AND THE GROWTH TO MATURITY OF THE SAVED. THIS YOU MUST DO !!