Novels That Challenge–Modern Day Parables Without Preaching

We all crave stories that raise our moral bar, lift us higher, that show us clearly how we, too, can live cleaner, purer lives with hearts on fire.  But no one wants to be preached to in a novel.

And yet that’s just the challenge  Christian writers face.  We’re desperate to share the love, the very breath of God in story form.  But, it’s so easy to get carried away, to tell the stories just as we perceive God has laid them on our hearts rather than to allow His Spirit to help us show the transformation of the lives of characters.Unknown-3

Jesus crafted the perfect story plan.  In His parables, Jesus inspired through illustrations—how a woman cleaned her house inch by inch to find a penny; how birds of the air nested, finding rest in a mustard tree that grew from the smallest of seeds; how leaven in a loaf of bread permeates the whole to change the Unknown-1entire loaf; how a farmer sows grain on diverse ground to produce a variety of harvests; how wise virgins fill their lamps with oil before the time of need and foolish virgins don’t, and the result of that due diligence versus neglect.  And all the while His hearers knew he was talking about more than pennies, or seeds, or yeast, or soil, or lamps.Unknown-2

Jesus didn’t need to moralize because the conclusions were so obvious. He simply shared— in the briefest of all stories (demonstrating that less is definitely more)—an image, an illustration, an idea to provoke thought in his hearers so they might draw their own conclusion. He “showed without telling,” leading the recipients to their own “aha moment.”  No finger shaking in the face required.

Around each of Jesus’ parables we could build an entire novel.  And yet, even in the space of 100,000 words we’d be challenged not to “preach,” but to inspire, and to paint a picture as vividly as He did in a few words.

But, that’s what great novels must do, aspire to do.  Inspire.  Convict.  Provoke thought. Raise Questions.  Encourage.  Draw conclusions through “aha moments.”

Think about His parables.  Now, imagine a story—historical or contemporary or futuristic—for the one that strikes home for you in this moment.

There is no better teacher than Jesus, and no greater role model to imitate in writing or life than the Author and finisher of our faith.

God’s blessings in the days ahead,

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