That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1 NIV)
The disciple John wrote the above verse approximately fifty years after Christ’s resurrection. Because many new believers had not witnessed Jesus’ miracles first hand, commitment had waned. John wrote this letter to be circulated among the churches, to encourage them in their walk and strengthen their belief.
What John wrote is still being read and serving its purpose 2,000 years later. As writers, it will serve us well to look at how he went about constructing this letter.
Two things pop out at me in verse one. The first is that John is writing from a firsthand experience. He’s telling the reader what he knows. As a Christian writer proclaiming God’s love and grace, I had better make sure I’ve experienced that myself. If I’m going to convince readers that faith in God is real, I had better be walking in faith. If I’m going to proclaim that prayer works, I need to be a praying Christian.
John wrote about what he knew, what he had experienced. Writers are told all the time to write what you know. It stands to reason that if you are going to write about Christ, you must know Christ. Not that you KNEW Christ—but that you KNOW him.
The second gem for writers that I discovered in this verse is John’s plan for his writing. He understood that he needed to have his readers experience what he had experienced. He would do this by telling what he had heard, what he had seen, and what he had touched.
Contemporary books on writing remind writers repeatedly to use the senses to convey their message to the reader. John knew this and relied on his senses to convey his experiences.
I can tell my reader that God speaks today or I can tell them the message I have heard through Bible reading, through a pastor, through the testimony of a reformed drug user. I may tell them how God whispered to me in my despair or how he is shouting to a declining nation.
And do I write to my readers that God heals or do I tell them about my dad’s cancer? How I watched as his body declined and wasted away; how he could no longer stand on his own. Do I inspire my reader to believe that God heals when I describe how my healthy, vivacious, optimistic dad now rises early each day and volunteers as a morning greeter for a local Christian school? How at age 80, he has a bounce in his steps that is envied by those less than half his age?
Will I tell my readers that God provides or will I describe how my hands, shaking from hunger, gripped the firm roundness of each can of vegetables as I pulled one after another from a sack of groceries left on our door?
Yes, I think John gives good advice and a model for writers. Tell your reader what you’ve heard, seen, and felt. Do this so that they, too, may believe.
God Speaks to Writers Today ©2010 Judy Vandiver