Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Dipping the Quill Deeper – Writing About Sin in a Way that Honors God



by Eva Marie Everson @EvaMarieEverson

There is a story in the Bible—a shocking one—about a king standing on the roof of the palace. He sees a woman taking a bath—a purification bath, to be more specific—on the roof of another building. He has a desire for her. He asks about her, learns she is married, but he sends for her anyway. They “lay” together, and, in that life-altering night, they create a child. This leads to the murder of the woman’s husband, the marriage of our two key players, and the death of the baby they conceived. 

What do you notice about this story (I’ve pretty much given it to you the way the Bible lays it out)? What don’t you notice? 

I’ll go ahead and answer my own question. What you notice is two adults engaging in a sinful act that leads to another sinful act and then the consequences of that sin (the death of the child). What you do not see are throbbing loins and heaving bosoms. You don’t see sweaty flesh on sweaty flesh. You do not see lips and tongues and you don’t hear sighs and groans of passion.

And, yet, all of this was probably there.

But we don’t need all of this, do we? We’re adults. You don’t have to give us a Slinky and tell us it’s a toy. 

Here’s another story (and if you think the first story was shocking …) about a man who married his son to a woman, but the son was “wicked in the eyes of the Lord.” When the young couple copulated, the man “spilled his seed on the ground.” The Lord, clearly unhappy, took the life of the husband. So, according to the Leverite law, the next son was married to the widow. This son also did evil in the eyes of the Lord and “spilled his seed on the ground.” Exit husband #2. The father, clearly concerned about his younger son (who, according to the law, would have to marry the widow), told his daughter-in-law to go back to her father’s house until which time his baby boy was old enough to marry. 

He had, of course, no intention of calling her back when the son grew up. Years went by and the widow hears that her mother-in-law has died. She also figures that the father-in-law has duped her; he is clearly not sending for her. So she does what any logical-thinking girl would do: she dresses like a prostitute, entices her father-in-law (which, by the way, was lawful), and the result is twins, one of which will bring the line of Messiah. 

Somewhat scandalous, right? But guess what we do not see. That’s right, the bedroom details of this saga.

Final story, this one about a father and his two daughters. Before you are too disgusted, let me give you the backdrop. They had, at one time, lived in a city known for its sexual sin, mainly its homosexual sin. Three “men of God” showed up at the father’s door and he welcomed them in. Soon, when the men of the village heard about three strangers in town, they went over and demanded that he send the men out so they could “sleep with them.” (I guess they saw no need to try to hide their intentions.) 

The father was so horrified, he offered his two virgin daughters. But the men demanded the strangers. The strangers (who were angels) blinded the men, saved the father, and then, knowing that God was about to destroy the city for its sin, told the father to take his young daughters and their mother and “leave Dodge.” They did, but, as the city was being destroyed, the wife looked back and became a “pillar of salt.” The father then took his daughters into a cave to live. 

Time passed and the daughters, believing they were the only three people left on the planet, made some wine, gave it to their father, then slept with him in order to follow the commandment of God to “be fruitful and multiply.” 

The two nations that rose from this awful story became the enemies of God’s people, the Moabites and the Ammonites. 

As horrible and toe-curling as that story is, guess what you don’t see: you don’t see homosexual sex and you don’t see the incestuous acts between father and daughters. You know it’s there, yes, but there are no graphic words and phrases to keep you shuddering at night. 

As the president of Word Weavers International and as a writing coach, I am often asked about presenting sin in works of fiction (and, sometimes, nonfiction). “How can we show redemption unless we show the details of sin?” they ask me. 

Well, I believe I have demonstrated this. Pick up your Bible and read the stories of David & Bathsheba, Judah & Tamar, and Lot & his daughters to name a few. The writers of the Scriptures demonstrated how far mankind can go from God in their sin without titillating us or making us want to throw the book across the room.

We writers have been given a special gift: the ability to put words on paper and draw readers to truth in story. More importantly, as Christian writers, we draw them to the Truth. How can we do this if we allow ourselves to take an easy way out in our writing. Writing “smut” is easy but writing about the consequences of sin through story takes hard work. Finding the right words. Laying out the proper scenes. 

I’ll say it again: we have been given a precious gift. Why would we want to cheapen it? 

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Dipping the Quill Deeper: Writing About Sin in a Way That Honors God - @EvaMarieEverson on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Eva Marie Everson is the president of Word Weavers International and the director of its two conferences. She is the multiple award-winning author of nearly 40 works and has received awards as a speaker and Bible teacher. Eva Marie is often seen at writers conferences across the States. She served as a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild for several years, and taught as a guest professor at Taylor University in 2011. She and her husband make their home in Central Florida where they enjoy their grandchildren. They are owned by one small dog and a princess cat. 

25 comments:

  1. Eva Marie, such important thoughts, and so badly needed in our crazy culture. Thanks for presenting it so clearly.

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  2. Well stated Ms. Eva Marie. I've long believed that if I write using the "world's" standard, then how will the world see any difference. Such an important reminder. We can tell a story and make our point without swimming around the cesspool. Thank you ma'am.

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  3. Very detailed examples help me learn. Thank you providing them in this well-written post. As a mystery writer, I have to include sin because that is usually the basis for most mysteries. But I don't want to present the acts in flattering or glamorous or ways. This most has given me food for thought.

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    1. so glad to hear that, JPC! If we go back and look at some of the great classics, they didn't fall into that trap and yet their work never let us down.

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  4. Excellent point and examples. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. :)

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  5. I love that you illustrated your point through Biblical accounts. Thank you!

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    1. The Bible is full of stories that should make you blush, but I don't ever remember being turned on or sickened by them (well, except for the story about the concubine who was cut up and her parts sent to the 12 tribes. That make me a little sick.)

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  6. Edie, I am so encouraged to see this. There have been many discussions on Christian fb writers' sites over the last few years on just this subject. How can I not put in curse words or make the scene more "hot?" Even the "swooony" kisses have in some stories been a little too "Swoony," I think. My stories deal with real issues but don't include curse words or graphic details. and I try to watch the "swoony" kisses and not go over a line that creates lust in the reader. Anyway, I appreciate your topic today and how you illustrated it. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you. (And I'm Eva … not Edie. Although we are often confused with each other. I'm her much, MUCH older sister in Christ! LOL)

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  7. Thank you for excellent examples and wise words.

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    1. You're welcome. I felt they needed to be said.

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  8. God has given us the special and unique gift of writing. I pray I will honor Him with words that show His love and glory.

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  9. Beautifully explained. Thank you!

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  10. Excellent, well-written, and God-exalting reminder to us writers (and others). Thanks much.

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  11. Eva Marie - timely words for me as I rework my cult experience. (Maybe in the recesses of your brain you remember my story from a BRMCWC seminar where I worked with you in a small group.) Thanks for the help then, and now.

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    1. Pam, you'd probably have to be a tad more specific, but I do remember your name. :)

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  12. I just read a series of inspirational fiction that show the reader the couples consummating their marriage. I assume the author wanted to show that sex in marriage was enjoyable and beautiful but it didn't need to be performed for the reader. I mentioned my problem with the book in a review so others who would be offended by this would pass the book set by. Thanks for the clear reminder of what God requires of us as Christian writers.

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