As I’ve stated many times before, our culture has made a drastic movement towards cynicism. One of the consequences of such a movement has been an abandonment of anything dealing with the ideal. In other words, if something sounds impossible or idealistic it is immediately hated and laughed at.
We often say that “the world is messy” and that the ideal is not practical. After all, the ideal is often not met and therefore how can it be practical? It leaves us with a feeling of incompleteness. We look to the Christian life and see that many people abandon the life all together or the idea of an ideal within the Christian life because we rarely achieve it. If you say, “We are called to perfection,” they turn around and say, “You’re wrong, that call isn’t meant for us because it’s not practical.” And they’re partially right, such a call isn’t practical at all; it is ideal.
But without the ideal, where are we left? We’re left without a society for our laws and morals are based upon the ideals. The various laws against murder promote the ideal that no one should murder or that murder is bad, but a practical man would simply look at such actions as being efficient or inefficient. Did the murderer accomplish his task of murder? Then he is efficient. It is only in the ideal that we learn that murder is wrong because it is something we ought not do (“ought” is usually a good indicator of an ideal).
Without ideals we become nothing more than ants, scurrying around looking for a way to survive. “This sugar cube will provide me sustenance, therefore I will take it.” How practical of the ant. Let us praise the ant for being able to find food and eat it, something every organism can do! But I live by the ideal and my ideal is that living in a room free of ants is better than living in a room full of them, so I kill the ant. My ideal has trumped the ants practicality.
What is the harm in attempting to live the ideal? That you will come up short? Certainly this is expected. But only a foolish man would say, “I’m done” after coming up short to accomplish the ideal. A true man of character would say, “I guess I need to try harder.” He would evaluate his failure and find a way to achieve the ideal and live the ideal. After all, isn’t that what the Christian life rests upon? Isn’t the entirety of the Christian life based upon the ideal?