Category Archives: Writing Christian Characters

Do Our Christian Characters Show or Tell Their Faith?

"Crepuscular rays 09-11-2010 1" by Brocken Inaglory - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Crepuscular rays 09-11-2010 1” by Brocken Inaglory – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Granted, it’s a criticism of Christian fiction that we can sometimes be too “preachy.” Someone will publish a fantastic novel, and a reviewer will give it three stars, claiming that it would be great if not for all that religious stuff.

But amidst the chaos that we stir up in our character’s world, we need to show a picture of true Christianity in there somewhere. SHOW. So again, a classic case of show, don’t tell. How much of the character’s faith is given by dialogue or an info dump, when it could be given by action? Could that perhaps be what turns reviewers off?

In fact, isn’t Christianity itself something of a show, don’t tell concept? Doesn’t James 2:18 tell us this? 

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Be it the main character or a side character, someone in the story needs to be visibly living by faith, being a peculiar person, and entering His courts with praise. They should have quiet time for reflection and prayer, express thankfulness, and offer praise whether by word or song.

I recently read about Leona von Brethorst, who penned the words to “He Has Made Me Glad,” which features Psalm 100:4 and Psalm 118:24

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.


This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

I could have posted several links that described her poverty and how she turned to Psalm 100 in a time of desperation, which inspired her to the words. Instead, I chose the link to her obituary, which speaks to her character:

Leona was a longtime member of Bethany Chapel writing poems and songs, and always active in her church, ultimately organizing and running an outreach that fed the homeless. She loved to sew and made a multitude of quilts for anyone in need. She also enjoyed fishing at every opportunity.


Does your Christian fiction novel have a Leona? It wouldn’t be hard to add one in–that little old lady next door who’s always baking bread, the boss who refuses to let anyone work on Sunday, the single mother who whistles songs of praise while she hangs the laundry on the line. Maybe it’s the cafe owner who has painted Bible verses on the walls. 

I think if we truly look, we’ll find many Leonas in our life to inspire us. I’d love to hear about yours!


Are “Christian” Characters Bondservants of Christ?


The Slave Trade by Auguste Francois Biard (PD-US)

The history of slavery throughout the world is both a fascinating and terrible study. And sadly, human trafficking is alive and well, sometimes even in our own backyards. Hard to believe, right? But according to this FBI press release I saw this morning, arrests were made in America as recently as yesterday.

It’s easy to get outraged at stories like this one, and I think we should, though we have to be careful that this outrage does not carry through to our own servitude to Christ.

The Biblical bondservant is not forced into tragic slavery, but rather volunteers to serve the master, as in Exodus 21:5-6.

But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

Are we bitter servants, begrudgingly doing the things God has asked us to do? Are we outraged at His commands? Or do we truly deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him as willing servants who love and cherish their Master?

Sometimes not, and if we’re not careful, an indignant attitude will carry on into our characters as well.  In our self-serving society, we need to write Christian characters who willingly put the needs of others in front of themselves.

Some of the Christian fiction books I’ve read portray one character as a “Christian” and the other as lost, but if the author hadn’t explicitly told me, I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out on my own from their actions.

There’s a fine balance between making the Christian character come off as perfect vs. a complete hypocrite. No question, we all sin, so they do need to have a few flaws to be believable. And they need to acknowledge these flaws and convey to other characters that they’re actively working to overcome their temptations and weaknesses.

I’ve been reading in Galatians a lot this week, trying to do some memory work. I keep coming back to the words of Paul in chapter one, verse ten:

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

I think that’s the key. Are our Christian characters people pleasers or God pleasers?