By Edward Thal /
In a dark and corrupt world the concept of excellence endures in its purest form in the sports arena where individuals and groups meet in open competition that produces winners and losers. Here the Olympic Games still represents the pinnacle of achievement, crowning athletes who excel over their peers in grueling contests governed by uncompromising rules and standards.
Alas, most other fields of human endeavor – the arts or science or music or literature or the academy – are tainted by socio-political interests and cultural degradation to the point that what passes for excellence may be merely sensational or politically correct or excite the basest human instincts. When foul-mouthed hip-hop thugs become role models and vacuous movie stars are idolized for little more than taking off their clothes in public and utterly corrupt political leaders are lauded for shallow, self-serving achievements it appears that excellence in the 21st century is measured by the standards of a fetid swamp in which monsters thrive.
Against such a gloomy backdrop it is a joy to declare the excellence of Jesus Christ, the central figure in an unchanging Book that sets unchanging standards and exalts unchanging verities like truth, honesty, justice, and purity; and loveliness and beauty and virtue. It was said about Jesus in the brief record of His life on earth that “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).
Happily, He is still going about doing good, encouraging moral excellence and cultivating peace and contentment in hearts and minds once filled with strife and dissipation. The Spirit of One who is altogether lovely shines through all He touches.
Jesus Christ – the Spirit and Ground of the beauty of Christianity – is variously described in the Bible as the rose of Sharon; the lily of the valley; a tree bearing fruit; a rare perfume; a spring of pure water; a Light; a Life-giver; a careful Shepherd; a tender Friend and a burden-bearer. We are invited to sit under His shadow with great delight. His fruit is always sweet to our taste.
When He draws near the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in the land. He is a mountain of myrrh, and a hill of frankincense. He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the brightness of the glory of God. To us, mere humans, He is the human face of God; in Himself, He is the creator and sustainer of all things.
He loves righteousness and justice and purity. He brings light to a world where many choose darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. And yet those who receive Him, however unworthy they may be, are welcomed into the family of God – where the standard is always perfection and excellence and the river of His pleasures never runs dry.