"The word came and made his dwelling among us."
These are the words of John in our fourth gospel. The words are possibly familiar to you, and they are rightly treasured in your mind as the beginning of the good news of Christ's incarnation. In this little piece I wish to develop an impetus for Christian writing. I hope that as you read, you will be drawn in and challenged to write.
I started with the quote from John's gospel to show the pervasiveness of the idea of 'The Word' in the Bible. We are all familiar with the language, and in the context of John's gospel. It portrays a beautiful image of God being amongst us, Emmanuel.
It also points towards the power of words. In itself the prologue of John's gospel reaches back to Genesis and reminds us that 'in the beginning was the word.' In Genesis, God creates with 'a word'. Christians have long believed in the power of words, they are not frivolous add-ons to life, but are part of the very texture of it. The Word became flesh.
We have a proud literary tradition that stretches from the New Testament and is traceable through nearly every literary tradition and discourse that has ever been. From the epistles to the orations, through the didactic to the mythological, Christians have been writing some of the best literature in the west. Sometimes it may be hard to believe, but there are still word-class Christian writers working today.
Marilynne Robinson is a Christian who has won the Pulitzer Prize, and this year was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. We are replete with inspiration and while we can never claim the efficacy or power of 'Word became flesh' for our words, we can still see our words as little imitators, mimics that bear witness to the greater drama of His dwelling amongst us.
But what to write about? Well, to a degree it is up to you. Write about your day, write about your dog, write about your dreams or write about your jog. However, in terms of models, I can think of no better example than Paul.
Paul the Apostle took writing very seriously, as his collections of letters show. However, in his writing I think he modelled a very Christ-Like attitude. His letters are rarely theoretical treatises, on a par with say Plato or Philo. While they contain pure, theological statements that we might rejoice in, and ones that we might puzzle over, he mostly writes his letters to the very material conditions of his readers.
The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Paul's words dwelt among the Corinthians, and you can see the effect of this within the second letter that he sends to them. What's more, they never start there and ascend into sublime heights of rhetoric, but by the end of all of Paul's letters to the churches, he descends and thanks individuals who have helped him, sends greetings and prayers and involves his words within individual conflicts and joys.
If you are in the habit of constant letter writing (I know, we use emails, but the point stands), how often do you talk about yourself? And how often do you instead pay attention to the circumstances of your reader(s)?
This can be daunting, and I finally want to suggest that we do not have to air our writing in public. I am not suggesting that we all need to be writing blogs, letters to the editor or what have you. Instead start small, keep a little notebook. Jot down prayers, poems, aphorisms, jokes whatever.
For Christians we have all the reason in the world to suppose that our written word is important. We are little imitators of Christ, and our words can make all the difference in somebodies life. So today, if you are a Christian, will you write? It be a small, once-a-week-when-I-get-the-time sort of thing. But from there who knows what might happen?
Who knows whose life you might impact, so that your words too, could find themselves becoming flesh.
First published October 14, 2013
Dale Wang (22) is studying his final year of a BA(hons) in Classical Studies at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. He has been heavily involved in the Christian Union on campus, being their communications officer and leading bible studies.
Dale Wang's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/dale-wang.html