Excellence. It is nearly a lost art in today's society. Oftentimes it is thought of as something only for the elite. People in the big hotel business should strive for excellence in service. But the average person? "You should just be you. Be real."
But what if the "real" you--the everyday, average you can be excellent? What if your ordinary is extraordinary? Somehow it has come to be in our society that being "real" trumps all else. If you lie, cheat, steal, or are just a jerk in general, you still get some kind of kudos for being real. As if being honest, hard-working, or excellent is a phony facade.
True, if you go to a fancy restaurant or some place, their standard of excellence could probably be called a phony facade. Most of the spotless waiters who never drop a tray and always smile pleasantly at customers may very well be regular people with all the regular problems of the average person. They have to maintain the image of excellence in order to keep their jobs so their place of employment can keep their glowing ratings that allow them to make more money.
What about in the church? Do we strive for a standard of excellence or do we strive to be real, down-to-earth, and accessible? Do we pursue one to the exclusion of the other?
I submit that there does not have to be a dichotomy. Why should we paste on fake smiles and pretend things are just ducky when they aren't? Why should we show off our shortcomings and brag to the world we are no different from them?
Truth be told, neither route shows the saving power of grace. If God is so wonderful in your life, why would you have to fake joy in trials? If God is so powerful in your life, why would you be no different from the world? Being fake or being real...
But why should our reality not be excellent? Being saved by grace makes you different by necessity, for you are no longer born of flesh, but born of spirit! You can have joy and strength in hard times and be real about your weakness--for it is in your weakness that God shows His power.
The problem comes down to this: We always either want a laundry list of to-do and to-don't, or we want to have no rules at all. We create in our minds a picture of how we think we should look and try to copy it rather than looking into the mirror (the Bible) to see if we look like the standard (Jesus) living through us. Not only will we not look, but we don't want feedback from onlookers ("don't judge me!").
Therefore we create the false dichotomy: to be real or to be excellent. But if your reality is Jesus Christ living in you then your reality will be excellence. Seek Him and everything else will follow.
It's simple, but it isn't easy.