Why You Shouldn’t Fear Making Your Hero Like Jesus – Guest Post by Natasha Sapienza

Yup, I have a hero who is like Christ in character, and unwittingly in power—for now. I’ve heard it often, “don’t make your characters perfect or your audience won’t relate!”

This can be true I guess, but then what about the thousands who got to know Jesus while He walked this earth, and the billions who’ve known Him since? Jesus was contrary to everything the world had accepted as truth and believed. He was/is a total anomaly. Many were confounded by His antics, yet eventually, loads of people came to understand and love Him. Who’s to say the same can’t be true for your character? Jesus is the most loved person in existence. He’s also the most hated person in existence.

Just as in real-life, people either love or hate Jesus, in real-life, people will either love or hate your character. Making your hero like Jesus isn’t an automatic character fail. Every character is like someone: yourself, your mom, your dad, your sister, your husband, your role model, Gandalf, Luke Skywalker. No one character is completely unique. That character is usually a reflection of a real-life person, animal, or thing. The world has plenty of wrong ideas, and not making your character like Jesus because He’s supposedly not relatable is one of them.

Jesus projected Himself and the Father in many stories He told: the father in the parable of the prodigal, the man who found treasure in a field and sold all he had for it, the master who forgave his debtor, the vineyard keeper, the list goes on. In fact, God would use the life-stories of actual people to reflect His Son millennia before He made His earthly appearance. He did this so as to stir up a reminder to the Jews about what the Messiah would do and how He’d be.

I never liked anti-heroes. They’re reflections of our weakness and inconsistency as human-beings without God’s redemption. Lukewarm water, broken and messy, doing good deeds, only to have them polluted by our sins and constant back-sliding.

But I love heroes with a beautiful morale, with strong character and nobility. I find their sacrifice inspiring; reflections of the redemption we have in Christ, what we can be in Christ.

We don’t have to be anti-heroes and semi-heroes. We can be heroes because of the Holy Spirit God graciously gives repentant sinners. Just like the heroes in Bryan’s stories with special abilities and supernatural powers that help them save their worlds, we as Christians have incredible power in Christ to save souls in our world.

God roots for us as we root for the heroes we read about. He’s writing our story, and trust me, He sees greatness, strong warriors of Light. When He looked at seemingly weak and incapable Gideon, He called him a mighty warrior, and He indeed made him one. When He met Peter, He called him a rock, and used Him to kickstart the Church. He made Saul the powerful Paul we read about in the New Testament. God is in the business of writing noble heroes, not anti-ones. And if we are to be His representatives and be like Him, why not make our characters the same, make them what we all can be in Christ?

Enough of the compromising, weak characters who stay in that state and never become like Jesus. Where’s the hope in that? Where’s the power in that? Let’s write the way our God does, and really impact this world with His love and power, letting them know that we don’t have to just read about amazing heroes, we can be amazing heroes.
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natashablogNatasha Sapienza is a passionate storyteller, blogger, and YouTuber. She’s an especially passionate warrior princess of God’s kingdom, a wife, and a mother. She’s written two eBooks for women and blogs about Christian living, purity, and preparing for marriage. You can get better acquainted through her sites:

BetterThanPrinceCharming.com

NatashaSapienza.com

Youtube.com/user/NatashaSapienza

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20 replies

  1. Wow. I really like this post. I totally agree that it’s okay for heroes to be good reflections of Jesus. Thanks for sharing this.

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  2. Hi Natasha,

    Is your hero from that Seven Sentinels book you were working on?

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  3. That was very well written. I really liked that. You mad some great points.

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  4. I think people might have a hard time identifying with ‘perfect’ characters in stories because stories tend not to capture what that kind of person looks like in real life. The best ‘perfect’ characters I tend to see are the ones that always try to do the right thing, but still make fatal errors that they may not recognize until much further into their life. Another aspect is showing them in a way that gives them flaws based on their culture. In one anime I saw, for instance, there was a king who acted very kind, but due to his culture did not consider stealing wrong as long as the thief took his loot away boldly, shouting and singing in triumph. At that point, this king believed someone like that was a conqueror. In spite of his general kindness, having flaws like that made him seem more realistic, especially when the audience sees indications that he is beginning to doubt and regret some of his past actions.

    When it comes to Jesus I think a lot of people came to love him partially because they saw him in real life and could see some of the depth to him. Sure, he made no mistakes, but he wasn’t just someone who went around healing people and saying nice things. When reading the bible and imagining what it must have truly been like to be him, I am struck by how even someone with his power must have felt, knowing that many of the people he was going to the cross to try and save were going to still hate him.

    When thinking about trying to write Jesus himself(actually, in my case, a representation of him in a fantasy world), I tend to feel myself gravitating away from the idea. Many stories I’ve read where Jesus makes an appearance have written him in a way that feels distant to me. I’m sure there are some people that can write him well, but for me personally I would want to write him as well as possible, yet when I think about actually trying I don’t have enough ideas of how.

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    • Autumn,

      Thanks for commenting! Seriously, knowing people would hate you despite how incredibly loving and powerful you are must have been … I really can’t imagine. What I have found is that, I’m always praying before I write, and what flows out are these cool allusions to Jesus, but yet in fantasy form. They aren’t forced, they aren’t even predetermined. I just know I want my character to point people to Jesus, and I just write, and honestly, every time I edit the story, I see new ways of how something alluded to or mirrored a characteristic of Jesus without me even trying to. I give the Holy Spirit credit for that.

      For example, a certain power my character has is a blend of two elemental forces and I realized months later, those powers are actually how the bible describes the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

      So sometimes, it’s not even my here’s morale, but abilities that point to God.

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  5. So I have a few random thoughts; hopefully they’ll come out clearly.

    First, I really and truly do appreciate writers and filmmakers who can make a generally good character likeable. It’s a reflection of culture that we tend to immediately associate “interesting” with characters of questionable integrity and/or morals. Someone pointed out to me once that Satan is the most interesting character in Paradise Lost and the reason nobody likes Dante’s Purgatorio or Paradiso is that they are boring (whereas in Inferno you hear all the crazy stories of these repugnant people being tortured indefinitely; for the record, I’ve read all three, and in my 9th grade brilliance didn’t care for any of the three parts nor remember much about Paradise Lost). I’ll be the first to say the hopelessly-flawed, immoral, amoral, or anti- hero has gotten pretty overused in efforts to explore outside the classic heroic type (which…they typically weren’t bastions of morality and goodness themselves). It’s a breath of fresh air to see a resolutely pure-hearted character.

    Second, Jesus is a hard character to write. I’ve only seen it done well on two occasions. I actually think this problem stems more from a gross misunderstanding of God across the Testaments by Christians for decades.

    Third, and going back to good/righteous characters (as I think writing God himself should be its own category), I’m actually trying my hand at a few righteous characters, and a fellow writer told me that, really, the temptation for the character in question would rarely be between a good and evil action but primarily between two good things. The real struggles tend to be something other than something that would go against the grain of these characters. (Examples: a person in our world with a magic-practicing character as a friend; a character who has the same goal as his brother of a different faith, but, with that differing faith, a differing means of arriving at said goal, creating conflict and struggle there). So I suppose here I’ll throw a question in: How do you keep a character both genuinely good (“perfect” Is never the right word, I think, as only Jesus himself is truly such) and dynamic and three dimensional?

    I ask that question because of point #1: People seem to not know how to do it, and wind up with flannel-board characters that people cannot relate to because we are not scraps of flannel.

    Fourth, I do see some antiheroes and redemption arcs that never complete actually work, and when it’s done well, it seems to more or less reflect on how much we’d like to be the hero, but some part of us goes unmended, even if it’s as simple as insisting on taking matters in our own hands, and, as a result, the redemption can’t complete because we can’t redeem ourselves. In a weird way, the hero is what we strive to be; the anti- or semi-hero is where we are without divine intervention (um, that thought is stolen from a friend).

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    • My answer is actually a spiritual one. Craft-honing is a given, but, truly incorporating prayer into your art is another thing I don’t think every Christian author really integrates. Prayer brings about a supernatural result in many areas of life, not just finances and health. If we trust God to work miracles in those difficulties, surely, making a powerful Christ-like character is not too difficult for Him. Do we believe and in faith, allow Him to create that character through us? We are called vessels, weapons, things that are wielded and used by someone. As we are God’s “hands and feet,” I believe He can utilize our mind’s and storytelling to point people to Him. But again, we have to really desire that, and seek it out through sharpening our gifts, knowing Christ on a deep and ever-growing level, and seeking Him for that through resilient prayer.

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      • Another practical: Jesus was dynamic. God is the Creator of emotions. My hero is supposed to represent Jesus, and as such, you better believe he gets angry at times and frustrated with his companion’s behavior and of course his enemies’. He experiences hurt, pain, anger, elation, exhaustion, confidence, physical weakness, just like Jesus did. I think these things add dynamic. He isn’t emotionally linear. I think depth of emotion and a range of emotion adds dynamic to any character.

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      • I definitely agree that people tend to short-circuit the humanness of Jesus (emotions, temptations, physical limitations, etc), and that prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit are of utmost importance. But, and I’m reading Nehemiah right now, so that image of them with a sword in one hand and shovel in another, prayers on their lips while they worked on and guarded the wall, is rather strong, I do think God expects us to learn our craft and pray to him for wisdom.

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      • Jesus also did both — worked and prayed.

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  6. I happen to like characters with perfect morality because they encourage me in the right direction. I am fine with them making errors of judgement because their knowledge is not perfect, or their skills are not perfect. Such characters may trip, or mispronounce words but at the end of the day, they do the best with the capacities they are given.

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  7. I normally try to make my character sinless but not perfect. Krys struggles with knowing what the right thing to do is and falls in with the wrong crowd. She also gets frightened. (Think flight or fight response.) The plot arc is her finding out what’s right and where she belongs, something I think readers can relate to.
    I do like antiheroes in movies and books. Generally, I prefer to have a good main character and a secondary antihero who needs to improve. Reading/watching something where the antihero is the main character annoys me since I like to root for someone who is a better person than I am, but if they’re secondary, it’s a lot of fun to watch them find redemption. Zuko from the Avatar TV series has one of the best redemption arcs I’ve seen.

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    • Zuko rocks! Definitely agree with you on redeemed anti-heroes. I likewise think they have their place as secondary characters, but if they aren’t redeemed, surely not the main “hero.” Because in real life, there are people who remain in that unfortunate anti-hero state, so it adds some authenticity to your story.

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      • Yep. Stories are a lot more interesting if there are a few characters who have a gray morality instead of just solid black and white. (There also seem to be ones who like people to think they’re in the gray end of the spectrum when they’re more in the white.)

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    • Zuko is among my favorites from that show because of his redemption arc. Curious, though, is he an antihero in the strictest sense? I’d have to look it up.

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      • In the first season, I’d peg him as a villain with morals. In the second season, I think he’s an antihero because he does a few heroic things, but he’s still got moral issues. In the third season, he goes into the hero category. (Of course, it all depends on what a person’s definition of anti-hero is.)

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        • I think I tended to view him as going from contagonist to one of the actual protagonists, and with a more classic hero’s journey in that he does have that huge redemptive arc to go through. His motives weren’t bad; his resulting behavior was.

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  8. In the past, the thought of making a main character Christ-like never would have crossed my mind, but this is an excellent point, and I definitely agree. I love both kinds of characters, the ones who may not start out perfect, but learn and grow and become redeemed, as well as those who are truly Christ-like.

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