Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Excellence vs. Obedience

Book Excerpt Time!
An excellent meditation on sexual purity is found in Every Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker.
Here is a bit that relates not only to keeping our inner man pure sexually, but really to all areas of our lives.
Join me please, Gentle Reader:

Why do we find it so easy to mix our standards of sexual sin and so difficult to firmly commit to true purity?

Because we are used to it. We easily tolerate mixed standards of sexual purity because we tolerate mixed standards in most other areas of life.


Question: What's your aim in life - excellence or obedience?

What's the difference?

To aim for obedience is to aim for perfection, not for 'excellence,' which is actually something less.

"Wait a minute!" you reply. "I thought excellence and perfection were the same thing."

Sometimes they appear to be. But mere excellence allows room for a mixture. In most arenas, excellence is not a fixed standard at all. It's a mixed standard.

Let us show you what we mean. American businesses are in search of excellence. They could be in search of perfection, of course - perfect products, perfect service - but perfection is too costly and eats into profits. Rather than be perfect, businesses know it's enough to seem perfect to their customers. By stopping short of perfection, they find a profitable balance between quality and costs.

To find this balance, they often look to their peers to discover the 'best practices' of their industry: How far can we go and still seem perfect? By how far can we stop short? Businesses find it profitable to stop short at the middle ground of excellence because perfection costs too much.

But is it profitable for Christians to stop short at the middle ground of excellence where costs are low, balanced somewhere between paganism and obedience? Not at all! While in business it's profitable to seem perfect, in the spiritual realm it's merely comfortable to seem perfect. It is never profitable.

Clearly, excellence isn't the same as obedience or perfection. The search for excellence leaves us overwhelmingly vulnerable to snare after snare since it allows room for mixture. The search for obedience or perfection does not.

Excellence is a mixed standard, while obedience is a fixed standard. We want to shoot for the fixed standard.

- Every Man's Battle p. 49-50

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