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The Joy of Writing for the Right Reasons

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A World of Writers

Since the birth of the blogosphere and the worldwide ruling dynasty of social media, the art of writing has drastically transformed. What was once a dreaded high school English assignment now seems to be where we focus most of our time, energy and thought. It’s now a part of our lives that we cannot do without. The label of writer might as well be synonymous with that of “human” or “breathing.” What many once completed begrudgingly, we now willingly pursue with great zeal. We write because we feel. We write because we think.

We write because we can.

Just as with any interest or opportunity, it’s important that we filter our passion through a purification process, making sure that what we’re able to do is something that we should do. This is the simplicity of Paul’s principle that just because we’re allowed or able, doesn’t mean we must always follow through [1Corinthians 10:23]. But whatever our reasons, we press on. We continue to create and compose. Today, blog posts and featured articles seem to be the currency of Christian culture. Publications and blog metrics are the new resumes. With these new standards come, without question, new reasons for writing.

For popularity.

For recognition.

For security.

For self-indulgence.

For anger.

For frustration.

The more we write and the more people read what we write, the more we must stop, breathe, process, pray and evaluate why we write. This is something I deal with quite often, and I am certain I am not alone. Writing as an art form is a beautiful thing to behold. It also is dangerous. The written word is just as powerful as it is beautiful. It’s just as persuasive as it is a source of pleasure. After all, God chose for the written word to be the medium through which we learn about who he is as the Father and Creator of all things, as well as the extent to which he has gone to rescue and redeem all that he loves and has made. It is this written Word that has helpful guidelines for us to marinate on as we continue to put our thoughts, feelings and convictions down on paper or displayed in pixels.

We need unity between our online avatars and who we truly are on a Monday morning.

A Window, Not a Cloak

We’ve migrated from finding solace in the arms of our family and friends to finding it behind the clicks of our keyboard and the screens of our devices. Look around. The expanse of technology has inaugurated a global, interactive game of Hide-n-Seek. The problem is no one goes out looking for anyone. It’s dangerously too easy to stay behind our screens in the darkness, yelling out to others while we stay hidden. We avoid any exposure of what’s really happening in the back corners of our hearts. We hold back the way we truly feel, the areas we’re fighting to keep our heads above water, and we sculpt an inauthentic masterpiece in blogs, article submissions and social media posts.

Before we put fingers to keys or pen to paper, let us be encouraged to not use our writing as a cloak of invisibility. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, an accusation is made against him that he appears one way in his letters and a completely different way when he is present with the body of believers. Paul seems to be a different person when we writes. His physical presence doesn’t hold the same weight as his writings. Paul receives the criticism and issues some encouragement. He says we must strive to be the same person in both settings. This means how we write must communicate who we actually are. We need unity between our online avatars and who we truly are on a Monday morning.

In a writing-infused culture where sharing physical presence with others is not the norm, this is great wisdom for us. Let us be on-guard and heed the call from Ephesians 4 to discard any caricatures we’ve created and speak truth with those around us and those in our online communities. Let us use the written word to encourage, convict and exhort. Let it be a window we open to let others in. May we also remember that it is the fool that gives full vent to what’s in his heart and the wise man that holds his spirit in check [Proverbs 29:11]. Just because we come out of hiding and open the window doesn’t mean we shine a spotlight on all that’s there. In this, we can be sure that Christ will be greatly honored in our written words.

Direct readers’ gaze to the things of God, not the things of the flesh.

A Telescope, Not a Magnifying Glass

Before we hit publish, post or send, a helpful standard to think through is this: What does our writing say about God, and what does it say about us? As it relates to using our gifts for God’s greater glory and the church’s greater good, we will humbly serve our brothers and sisters to ensure our words build a telescope, not a magnifying glass. The wonder of a telescope is that it brings something of great beauty and size, something that is out of reach, closer in view to behold its true wonder. It brings detail and clarity when there wasn’t any before. In contrast, a magnifying glass takes the incredibly small and transforms it into the outrageously huge. The insignificant quickly becomes larger than life.

This is our daily fork in the road. Will our writing bring into clearer view the beauty and grandeur of God so that our clarity, wonder and understanding of Him increases? It’s not our place to use His gift of writing that he has given us to bring our own talents and our own personalities to center stage. Paul offers more great wisdom in this regard in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Paul expresses that he didn’t come before the Corinthians with brilliance in his own speech or his own wisdom. He didn’t make much of himself, but rather made himself low and let the power of the Spirit work through him in order that Christ be made known.

Let this be the destination, the telos, of the words we craft. When we put feet to our thoughts and ideas, may they bring the greatness of God and his works to the foreground while we make our way into the background. Without question, excellent writing is a gift from the Lord and a beauty to be appreciated. While this remains true, let’s seek to cultivate beauty without relying on our creativity, wit or how well we can craft a sentence. As if being lowered through the roof to get to Jesus, may our words bring people closer to the wonder of Christ, not the wonder of ourselves [1 Corinthians 10:31].

Instead of our own brilliance, let us seek to display God’s magnificence. Instead of making deposits into our own pride, let us direct readers’ gaze to the things of God, not the things of the flesh. And may we seek not to validate our own insecurities through our content, but rather seek to validate the security one may find at the foot of the cross and the empty grave.

All glory be to Christ.

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Jonathan C. Edwards

Jonathan C. Edwards (M.Div, Th.M) is the Director of Curriculum for Docent Research Group. His writing has been featured at The Gospel Coalition, Relevant, Desiring God, and the ERLC. He is the author of Left: The Struggle to Make Sense of Life When a Parent Leaves, [Rainer Publishing, Nashville, TN: 2016] available now. He and his wife Katherine live in Durham, North Carolina where he is pursuing his DMin at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. For more of his writing, visit www.NotThePuritan.com.

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