What We Owe Our Readers
(Author's Note: With some minor adaptations I begin my part as a staff writer with the same article submitted to Searching the Scriptures a few years ago).
I appreciate brother Willis' confidence in asking me to write for Guardian of Truth. I hope I will not disappoint them. Most of all, I accept this assignment with a great feeling of responsibility to my Creator and to those who are subscribers to this magazine. Since the Guardian of Truth has a wider circulation than any church bulletin I have edited, the magnitude of what I write will be greatly increased for good or harm. A keen awareness of that responsibility causes me to begin my writing on my obligation. I have fallen short in times past in fulfilling my responsibility, therefore I do not hold myself up as a perfect example. However, there are some areas I wish to set before the reader in which I will try to be responsible. Of course, all of us who write should feel a certain debt to those who take the time to read what we have written. Among those responsibilities are:
1. Truth. Obliviously, this is first. It matters not with what eloquence we may be able to express ourselves. The ability to articulate is no guarantee of anything. We must not forget such men as Aaron (Exod. 4:14), Apollos (Acts 18:26), Tertullus (Acts 24:1,2), Robert Ingersoll, Clarence Darrow and other great orators who had excellent command of language but erred in their message. Only the truth can make us free (Jn. 8:32). This must be a writer's first consideration for "if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matt. 15:14).
Simplicity. Though Paul wrote some things "hard to be understood," there is a "simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3) and it was "the common people who heard him gladly" (Mk. 12:37). Are we writing for the intellectuals? This may be the reason people listened and responded more readily to Christ than they do to us. A photographer once said, "I could ask you to participate in a synchronized co-ordination of the neo-physiological reflexes with semi-automatic impulses, but it would be simpler if I just asked you to smile." An intellectual should be able to understand the simple, but not all of us can understand the complicated.
Edification. "Let all things be done unto edifying" (1 Cor. 14:26). This should be uppermost in our minds under every teaching situation. We are to build up, not tear down the brethren. To edify is to promote the spiritual growth and development of the character of believers. Spiritual progress is our goal. If we give only pious platitudes, pop psychology, and such like we may develop people with win-some personalities but very little Bible knowledge. If we dwell only on issues and "isms" we will develop harsh, unfeeling members interested only in intellectual and academic pursuits and argumentation Let us build up the total man.
Sound judgment. When one puts his thoughts in writing he has no way of knowing into whose hands they may fall. Some things should not be put in writing. There is no point in deliberately placing oneself in a libelous situation. Satan does not miss an opportunity to destroy our work. We must exercise prudence. This also applies to the raising of various issues. A good question to ask is "Does this issue deserve the magnitude of attention it is getting?"
Brevity. Preparing for a long trip, a man said, "I am just about packed. I only have to put in a guide book, a lamp, a mirror, a microscope, a telescope, a volume of poetry, a few biographies, a package of letters, a book of songs, a sword, a hammer and a set of books I have been studying." "But you can't possibly get all that into your bag," responded his friend. "Oh yes, it doesn't take much room." With a smile he placed a Bible into the corner of his suitcase and closed the lid.
The Bible is the most concise and compact book ever writ-ten. What book deals with a wider range of topics than the Bible? The Bible records several thousand years of history. It contains geography, science, mystery, romance, history, poetry, biographies, adventure and touches on many other subjects.
I am not arguing for articles of a particular length. Some topics deserve more space than they are given. Others may be too long for what we had to say. It is interesting to note that it takes only about 16 minutes to repeat the Sermon on the Mount, reading aloud at normal speed. Yet it is nothing short of a masterpiece -- delivered by the Master Teacher. We must be careful not to use a gallon of words to express a spoonful of thought.
A friend of mine once remarked that too many words are wasted. His comment was that "we are drowning in a sea of words." A brother who works 8 hours per day, spends a considerable amount of time traveling to and from work, tries to fulfill the role of a husband, father, handyman, and financial wizard, does not have the same amount of time for reading that a preacher might have. We should appreciate the fact that such a brother would subscribe to a paper and try to keep up on his reading and studying. I will try to do my best in consideration of him and watch the verbiage.
Courtesy and fairness. I regret that some quit subscribing to periodicals because they often contain controversies. The daily newspaper has controversies in it but I still want to keep up with the news. Come to think of it, the Bible contains controversies.
It may be that the objection is to the manner and attitude in which a controversy is carried on. Someone once said, "Rudeness is a weak man's limitation of strength." A teacher of God's word must walk a fine line. There is a danger in our efforts to speak the truth with all boldness that we will be unkind and unloving. And there is a danger in our efforts to be kind and loving that we will compromise the truth. If during my association with Guardian of Truth I find myself involved in controversy, I resolve now to do my best not to belittle the one with whom I share a disagreement by unkind personal remarks. Paul said, "only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel" (Phil. 1:27). This should govern our writing as well as our preaching.
Finally, consider Paul's exhortation to the preacher Timothy. "And the Lord's servant must not strive but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his will" (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
This is a big order and I may have to eat some of my words. But if I fall short it will not be the fault of the goals themselves. It will be due to my own shortcomings. Pray for me.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 5, p. 8-9