Bill's not-so-excellent adventure
The other day I listened to a Christian speaker develop the topic of "excellence." Though the speaker was a likeable man with passion and charisma, my heart sank as he spoke. He defined Christian excellence almost exclusively in terms of achieving high-quality performance in every area of life.
One illustration was particularly revealing... He mentioned visiting people's homes and seeing the doors to so many rooms of the house closed. He concluded that this indicated a lack of "excellence" in cleaning the house, in which every room should be clean and spotless. What can I say? It reminded me of a close friend of mine who once had a church leader judge her spiritual maturity on the basis of whether she detailed her car every week.
Admittedly, I'm not exactly a paragon of excellence in these respects. One need look no further than my own lackluster 1994 Buick with the gaping hole in the front right fender for evidence of a certain lack of, uh, excellence in automotive upkeep. And you'll probably find some doors closed in my house when you come to visit, if I can just get the kids to remember to keep them that way.
And yet, to be honest, sloth is not exactly my besetting sin. If anything, I am more likely to make an idol of excellence, to let my contentment on a given day be determined by how much I get done, how clean the house is, how well my children behave, how well I'm feeling, and so forth. Indeed, I consider it something of a victory that I'm more willing these days to let certain areas of my life be less than excellent in order to focus on things that are more important.
Even this doesn't get at the heart of the matter, though. Surely there is room for exhortations to excellence in the body of Christ, even if some of us are working more on being less perfectionistic and demanding. What really disturbed me was the utter absence of the gospel from this presentation. No references to creation or the fall, to redemption or restoration. No references to the cross and the resurrection. No reflection on the ways in which any of these revealed truths should motivate, affect, redefine, or empower 'excellence' in our lives.
I write all this only because I am convinced that a distinctively Christian approach to a thing must consider it in the light of the cross and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (themselves answering or announcing creation, fall, redemption, and restoration) and our present position between the ages. This is true of "excellence"; it is also true of suffering, politics, sexuality, apologetics, hermeneutics, environmentalism, business, and every other aspect of life or thought.
Let's call each other to God-honoring, Christ-centered, Spirit-dependent excellence in that pursuit. And I probably need to wax the car at some point too.