Friday, June 22, 2007

The Character of Paul

In one of the how-to texts I'm currently reading about writing fiction, I came across an interesting passage that uses the story of Apostle Paul to demonstrate effective character development:

To show what makes a character, you must come to a crucial choice that almost breaks and then makes the character. The make-or-break decision gives you plot. Think of Saul on the way to Damascus: While persecuting Christians, he is blinded by a vision; after that, he changes, becomes St. Paul, the greatest proselyte. Something stays the same, however; he is equally zealous, before and after. No matter what you think of the story of Paul's conversion, keep it in mind as a paradigm for character writing (Josip Novokovich, Fiction Writer's Workshop).

I read the author's "no matter what you think" statement as the author's way of acknowledging that Paul's story has power even for those who do not consider the Bible to be true. It's definitely one of the most well-known Bible stories. I think its popularity comes from its climax, in which a classic' bad guy' is transformed into a ‘good guy' in a shock of holy light. Even nonbelievers must admit that Paul is, at the very least, a compelling ‘character.' After all, as all writers and readers know, the best stories are those in which the characters truly and deeply change.

What currently intrigues me about this story now, however, is not what changes in Paul but what stays the same: his zeal. Paul is not suddenly instilled with religious fervor in that blinding flash. God doesn't require him to become docile and quiet; He directs the passion which Paul already possesses toward His holy purpose. Paul walks into the light of his newfound faith without having to check his entire personality at the door. His soul is simply renewed and redirected when he is redeemed.

A number of conversion stories that VOM receives have a similar ‘plot' to Paul's (such as this one from India). Militant Hindus and Muslims turn from violent and murderous persecutors into passionate and dedicated Christian workers. No matter how many times I hear such reports, I remain amazed and inspired by how God calls his children to faith. He is able to bring them into his good service and grant them new hope by building upon what is already present---using even those qualities which some might initially consider negative or harmful. Yet more proof that it is wrong for Christians to dismiss even the cruelest and most fervent of persecutors as ‘hopeless.'

It is a blessing to be able to read Acts 9 and know that it is far more than an entertaining piece of fiction; it is God's truth. Pray that the lives of our brothers and sisters who came to Christ as Paul will testify to the truth of His grace and pray that nonbelievers will come to separate the fiction of false belief from the fact of Christian faith.


Glenn Penner said...

Well said, Adele

Anonymous said...

*24/7 mom lays aside her reticence to dance and shout* Amen! I couldn't agree more! Very well put!