Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Perfection of Profession

Christians are commanded by Christ to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matt 10:16) But often Christians seem to possess the innocence necessary to be holy, but lack the wisdom. And as such, our efforts to evangelize and spread the truth of the Faith are severely curtailed.
Christians are supposed to be in the world, but not of the world. This means that Christians are not to adopt worldly desires. It does NOT mean that Christians are supposed to ignore the world altogether.
It also does not mean that Christians can afford to be lazy in their chosen professions. Christians must strive for technical perfection in every act that they do - including work. But too often, it seems, Christians in certain industries fail to seek this perfection in what they do – with dire results.
A perfect example of this trend is in the film industry. Christians often make films with wonderful messages, but too often force these moral values into a movie with awful execution. (The Passion of the Christ is a rare exception.) And the awful execution detracts from the power of the movie.
The movie Fireproof (yes, I know it’s a Protestant movie) is a prime example of this. The movie had an incredible message: fidelity and mutual respect must be shown between two partners in order for a marriage to work. But the dialogue was so ridiculous and stilted that it distracted from the message of the movie. The film came across as a good film that could have been great - if it were better made.

By contrast, Hollywood shows very slick, well-crafted movies with little to no sense of moral values. The plots of these movies may have no redeeming qualities. They often develop anti-Christian themes, and the characters may blaspheme and reflect moral sterility. But the very slickness of the films makes them enjoyable to watch - even considering the terrible content within.
The best message in the world will not suffice if it is presented poorly. While we must see the face of Christ in all people, that does not mean those we are called to evangelize will do the same. Many will not see the gem of truth buried under a sloppy guise.
Very few people will watch a badly done movie, mo matter how striking the moral message contained within. Very few people will eat an inedible meal, no matter how generous the intent of the cook. Very few men will listen to a badly presented speech, no matter how important the ideas within. Poor presentation will ruin the substance of even the greatest argument. And so on and so forth.
The converse is also true. Skillful rhetoric can mask a speech which contains nothing of substance.  Appearance does indeed matter!
And this is precisely the problem. A Christian must seek to be the best that he or she can be – in every aspect of life. Morality is most important, of course. But technical perfection is also vital. And technical perfection is often dismissed as unimportant - "it's the thought that counts" is a common - and dangerous - platitude.
It is true that “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful,” as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said. But that does not give Christians an excuse to be technically lazy or incompetent. Fidelity to God demands that we perform the tasks allotted by God to the best of our ability.
The parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) reveals the dangers of wasted potential that God give us. We may well not be successful in reaching others – but we must develop our efforts to the best of our ability so that we have the best opportunity to do so. If others fail in understanding the truths of the faith, it should be in spite of our efforts, and not because of a lack of them.
So we, as Christians, should develop all our abilities to the best efforts. The souls of others may well depend upon our diligence.

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