P. M. Joseph
We live in times when perceptions and values are no longer what they were a generation ago, and it is palpable in every area of life, particularly in discerning quality and appreciating substance. As its direct result, quality seems less important to most people than quantity and size appears to matter more than substance. Quite naturally, this mindset undercuts quality as immaterial and substance as irrelevant. Doubtless, it is a moral predicament-a peculiar situation in which quantity and size take precedence over the other. Many unsuspecting men and women passively subscribe to this highly injurious world view as safe, and unwittingly jeopardise their eternal prospects. Christians, despite their claims to be otherwise, are not much different, and the impact of this bizarre approach is felt across the board. Biblically, quality and substance are always supreme and mutually complementary. In contrast, size and quantity oppose quality unanimously to eliminate it. Though the current practice of placing quantity and size above quality and substance seems productive and safe to many, it is, in fact, counterproductive. Moreover, it erroneously espouses accomplishments in life to be the only preferred pursuit and the sole objective one should focus on disregarding the means. Subsequently, the moral correctness required in life becomes irrelevant and integrity redundant. As a point of fact, this approach borders on moral anomaly and perches precariously on spiritual depravity. Further, the approach subtly pre-empts cherished values such as honesty, integrity and transparency, quashing moral, social and spiritual accountability and giving perversity a free rein. It is unfortunate that the church that is called to challenge and correct moral aberrations in its context as a dynamic catalyst, preserving sane values and godly virtues as God's tool, counterbalancing deviant human behaviour and incorrect world views, is subtly complying with it by disparaging quality. As a result, the church is forced to accommodate moral anomalies and spiritual aberrations submissively sabotaging its relevance and missional prospects. The following is a brief reflection on pro-quality Christian existence.
God's Preference For Quality
The entire Bible is a casebook on God's preference for quality existence and a casual glance is enough to unveil it. God's interventions in Israel's history and all the events recorded in the Old Testament are particularly oriented towards it. Earlier, the lives of the patriarchs and their priorities served as perpetual reminders of God's meticulous concern for quality existence, vis-a-vis their contemporaries, who lived their lives into historic oblivion with inconsequential concerns. God reminded the Jewish nation that their legitimacy was contingent on quality life-styles (Deut. 14: 2,3) and therefore they could not afford to muck around or dabble with their destiny, but be conscientious in all spheres of involvements-moral, social and spiritual. The prophets and priests alike advocated this concern vociferously lest they should become existentially insignificant by dwelling on trivia. Then, in response to His quality concerns and requirements, their ethics and social behaviour were to be qualitatively loftier than those of the people around as a consistent witness to His nature and demands. God's quality concerns were best reflected when the worship patterns were established; their fundamentals and elaborate rituals served as a virtual indication of God's demand for quality in worship leading to quality living. The need for substance was emphasised by asking them to be 'holy as He was holy' alluding to impeccably clean existence. The entire Old Testament insists that the life-styles, health care concerns and social interactions be coherent with His quality concerns. Whenever they deviated from those stipulations, they invited divine ire and indictments as corrective measures. As a point of reminder, quality living may emerge only when the right kind of perception and coherent living exist. It alone may merit His appreciation and all the rest will be existentially irrelevant and absurd. A.W. Tozer was right when he said, "Quality has to do with intrinsic substance and it begins with God," and it should be promoted through His people.
Penchant For Quality
In the New Testament, the life of our Lord is a precise illustration of quality existence as He lived life fully aligned to the Father's will and within its confines as a living example. Further, His ministry patterns reveal it as indispensable for meaningful existence. Practically, everything He did or said corroborated the above property and the following instances demonstrate it plainly. During His public ministry, He had a large crowd thronging around Him in apparent loyalty, but deficient in quality per se. The Apostle John records that the Lord Jesus was unimpressed with their size, numerical strength and devotion. Therefore, He did not commit Himself to them, knowing 'what was in them' (Jn. 2:22,23). It was a negative observation on their superficial quality commitment and which concluded them as deficient. On another occasion, the multitude wanted to make Him their king, obviously without adequately exploring its implications. He evaded it (Jn.6:15), dismissing their dilettantism. In fact, it was His way of discouraging deficit quality and rejecting it summarily, conveying that quantity and quality were incompatible; size and substance could not coexist under any circumstance. If at all they were allowed to coexist, quantity will go for a kill and establish itself as supreme, eliminating quality and substance as wholly irrelevant. Later, while choosing a group of followers to mould, shape and train as His disciples, He did not go for the most eligible men of calibre, intelligence and reputed social standing. The men that He chose were simple country-folks, the despised, the marginalised and the outcasts. But they had the required dynamism, potential and qualities latent in them that He could effortlessly tap and nurture fully; whereas the high calibre men around would have made demands on Him, instead of surrendering completely (Mk. 3:13,14). Further, on quality concerns, while being in the temple premises, we find the Lord Jesus appreciating a poor widow for a few mites she threw in over the rich who gave copiously. It was, again, His way of radically valuing quality of service placing it over its size (Lk.20:1,2) as a perpetual parameter for acceptable service. His entire ministry is literally awash with similar observations and inputs viz., the anointing of His feet and head, Mary's preference to be at His feet learning, or the quest of the rich young ruler had for eternal existence. Once, the disciples invited the Lord's ire for their uncharacteristic suggestion to bring fire down and consume the Samaritan village for not accommodating Him, as it was incompatible with their quality calling (Lk.9:55). When Peter drew his sword and chopped off Malchus' ear in Gethsemane, the Lord reprimanded him for his untypical behaviour indicating that He demanded quality restraints in all frontiers of human reach and involvements particularly in times of adversity. In fact, it was this insistence in quality existence, life's approach and perceptions that made Him unpopular with the religious leadership. Nonetheless, His teachings are appreciated by millions who care for quality.
Propensity To Quality
The early disciples were fortunate to hear and assimilate the essential truths from their Lord due to their physical proximity. One such truth related to focussed existence in contrast to chance existence. Consequently, life's concerns were altered to suit the essential truths they imbibed. They recognised that quality existence alone was sustainable. Quality existence refers to lives that are aligned to God's plans, appropriating all His purposes. In fact, it is the ultimate objective that humankind should vigorously pursue after. Many disregard this as immaterial and reject the need for an alignment with God's programmes. The need for alignment alludes to the existent non-alignment and therefore, re-alignment is indispensable for meaningful existence. The early disciples have always remained prototypes for realigned lives, allied to quality perceptions and world views as laid down in the Holy Scriptures. Obviously in their context, this reflected on their inadequacies. The popular cry, "Increase our faith," points to their abject inadequacy and the willingness to measure up to His quality expectations. Similarly, once Peter pleaded, "Depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man," acknowledging his own inadequacy with regard to God's quality demands. These were mere glimpses of their inadequacies vis-à-vis the quality that Jesus Christ demanded.
Further, their compliance with His demands moulded and regulated their lives as qualitatively valid. They were transformed after Christ's expectations and now they could brave all odds in life buttressed with their call, convictions and a sense of mission. They endured unmerited adversities with resilience and did not whine or protest. They knew that, once lives were aligned to His purposes, they belonged completely to the confines of His will and it was to Him whether one stood or fell. It reminds all that subscribing to God's purposes is safer than clinging to our own prospects. Fortified with quality lives, they challenged all to yield to the claims of Christ as Lord and their generation could not ignore them except at the peril of their own destiny. Sadly, the contemporary church lacks the above quality, both in its convictions and life-style, making Christ and His claims a plain travesty. May sane values prevail.