By Sara Davison
As my pastor is fond of saying, the Bible is not a book about good guys and bad guys—it’s a book about bad guys who need Jesus. None of us is perfect. We are broken, sinful people living in a fallen world. Even for those of us who believe, the pull of our sinful, human nature is strong. As the Apostle Paul said, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15 NLT).
The characters in our stories, if they are to be relatable, authentic, and believable, must reflect this. Our “good” characters, even those with a strong faith, still need flaws and weaknesses, a reflection of that old lament, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love (Robert Robinson, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” 1758).
If our hero and heroine are perfect, if they never feel the tug of the old nature tempting them to think or say or do anything that is dishonoring to God, readers will not only fail to relate to them, they may also be discouraged and feel as though they are falling short in their own lives by not living up to those portrayals.
The process of sanctification in the life of a Christian is just that, a process. As Paul again tells us in 2 Cor. 3:18 (ESV), “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”
“Are being” is the present continuous tense, suggesting that we are currently being transformed and will continue to be in the future. This suggests that we have not yet been fully transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, although, through the work and power of the Holy Spirit, we are becoming ever more so.
But still we fail. We fall. We sin. As David, whom God Himself called a man after his own heart, cannot help but wonder, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:4 ESV)
This is the reality of life in a fallen world, of humans living under the curse, of men and women born with a sinful nature. And our stories, our characters—even our heroes—need to mirror this; only then can we show the redemptive work of God in their lives. Only then can they experience grace and mercy and forgiveness. Only then can they grow in their faith and become more Christ-like.
And only then can people read their stories, see themselves reflected in the characters’ thoughts, words, and actions, and be encouraged in their own, ongoing journeys of being transformed into the image of Christ.
Authentically portraying the spiritual journeys of our characters also allows us to naturally and organically demonstrate God’s response to our failures and sins. As it says in Psalm 103:8-12 (NIV), “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
If our characters struggle with sin or wander from God and then, by the end of the story, experience God’s compassion, forgiveness, and love and are forever changed by it, then our readers will be left with the greatest takeaway of all—the hope that they too can experience that grace and compassion and love in their own lives.The Bible is not a book about good guys and bad guys—it’s a book about bad guys who need Jesus. - Sara Davison Click To Tweet
Sara Davison is a Word, Cascade, and two-time Carol Award winner of romantic suspense. She resides in Ontario with her husband, Michael, and their three mostly grown kids. Like every good Canadian, she loves coffee, hockey, poutine, and apologizing for no particular reason. Get to know Sara better at www.saradavison.org.