The Real and The Ideal
James W. Boyd
As a person matures he encounters problems, is constantly facing the need for adjustments, decisions, selections. He must ever evaluate everything. This is an inescapable part of the maturation process.
One problem the young person meets rather early in life comes as he goes from the idealism of childhood into the realism of maturity. Everybody is somewhat shocked when reality is crammed upon them. There is a real difference in this world between what ought to be and what actually is. The very young are taught what to do and not to do. They are instructed concerning what is right as opposed to what is wrong. Deciding between right and wrong is sometimes easier than deciding between what is good, then better, then best -the ideal. From parents, Bible teachers, preachers, and other sources of teaching, the young are taught how things ought to be, how people should treat each other, what everyone should do and refrain from doing.
Yet, they are not very old before they are subjected to how things really are in life. They are made aware that the ideal, and the measures used in teaching them, are not always what they see in life. Let me illustrate.
What Is Real
Young people are taught to love. But they grow up seeing so much war, hatred, killing, violence, and suffering. They observe exploitation of the poor, the misuse of power, lying and cheating in business, loafing and shortcutting on the Job. They soon learn that all judges are not fair, that life is not fair, that all policemen are not honest, that every preacher is not even trying to live by what he preaches, and even parents are not perfect. This is sometimes a very shattering experience.
It is aggravated in the church with division, gossip, strife, backbiting, false doctrines, and such things that too often are real. In school there is cursing, smoking, drinking, immorality among their peers, drugs, etc. They may even be snubbed by those they considered friends, and mocked by others when they are trying to do what they have been taught is right. The real is just so far removed from the ideals they are frustrated.
This has been a problem for both young and old alike. Some are shocked beyond belief. Some panic and cringe in fear. Some know not what to think, or to whom they can turn with confidence. Their foundations are shaken, and they know all is not well. They have entered the dangerous waters of adjustment to the fact that the ideal is not the same as the real world.
Our young generation is not the first to enter such waters. Every generation does it. There is danger to minimize the impact on the present youth, however, simply by dismissing it as something that everyone must face. I am convinced this is a very, very difficult time in which to rear children, as God wants them to be. Yes, everyone must face it. But everyone does not face it successfully. Many are overcome by this transition period. They are drowned in the swirling waters of doubt and confusion. They perish before they even know there is solid ground to be found. They never recover. It is of some help to know that others have entered these hazardous waters and made it safely to the other side called adulthood without being scarred and scathed beyond repair. It is a trying time for the young as well as their parents. But many have made the trip of transition from the ideal to the real quite well. But let us be sobered by the fact that many are not successful!
What To Do
How do you face this realistic problem? Some rebel against everything around them whatever it may be. They show their rebellion in their manners, dress, language etc. They revolt, riot, destroy, burn, and generally create as much havoc as they think they can. They disobey every level of authority, including parents, civil law, and God. They demand a change! But they are not very certain what to change, or even why. Many display an air of "down-with-everything; up-with-nothing."
Some will attempt to pretend the inconsistencies between the real and ideal simply do not exist. They will try to ignore the gap between them. They use various forms of escapism. Actually this is cowardly and solves nothing for anybody. It usually aggravates problems.
Some have advocated, since the standards are not being followed, that there really is no standard, or what standards there are must be changed to fit what is. More and more people are living as if there was not right or wrong, and no need to discern concerning conduct. Yet, they seem to be the most miserable of all who encounter this disparity between the real and the ideal.
Others will admit there are standards, even God-given standards, but they are too busy trying to convert God to man, rather than convert man to God. They take God’s Word and twist it around to make whatever they are doing acceptable. To illustrate, some have even taken the Bible to "prove” the acceptability of homosexuality.
Tragically, some give up the fight and cease to try to make any sense to life. They have never learned why they are alive. They think they cannot make it, or there is no use trying, and even destroy themselves in suicide.
While people are using all these false and ineffective means to cope with the variance between the real and ideal, let us recognize we have a problem and accept the fact as a challenge rather than an insurmountable obstacle and barrier to a good life. We can be freed by truth (John 8:32). We are not in heaven while here on earth. This earth was never designed to be our heaven. But there is hope; there is a way; there is a solution; and life is worth living once you understand your own worth and your mission in it. We must learn and follow God's truth.
How can we find the truth? Cannot we seek truth with the aid of others? Cannot we learn truth for ourselves without having to be “burned” through personal experience of “kicking against the pricks?” Cannot we profit from what has gone before us (Romans 15:4)?
Cannot we remember that everything worthwhile has its costs? Nowhere does God promise us an easy life, a “bed of roses” without any thorns, with everything and everybody sweet and good. Even though there are glad moments and times of rejoicing, it is not always that way, as one soon realizes when he compares the real with the ideal. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (Second Timothy 3:12). Christ offers us an abundant life, here and in the hereafter, but can we expect it without paying the price of conforming to His will?
Let it be insisted that each of us must learn the truth for ourselves. This does not mean you must learn every truth in every realm of human knowledge. But it does mean you must learn the truth in that which matters. But you do not have to learn every truth by yourself, throwing off everything others have learned before you and taught you, but you must learn it yourself. We cannot live the life God wants of us using only a "borrowed faith.” Unfortunately, there are some who think this means we must disbelieve whatever came before us and invent something new. Not so! But we must have our own personal faith and conviction. Those who love us and teach us usually urge this even as they teach us what is of God. Wise men profit from the experiences and teaching of others who have been along the way. Wise men will give heed to the Word of God. Every generation must be taught and learn everything. When we finally accept this truism, then we are in a position to pursue the truth with confidence that we can know the truth, and practice the truth with success. It is a pressing urgency that we know this! There is no short cut to spiritual victory! But there is a way because God has provided it!
God is the Way
The way to ride the tempest of the difference between the real and the ideal is to put confidence in God. Learn from His will what He says is right and wrong. This means that knowledge of the Bible is indispensable. Many youthful “Einsteins” learn how to make a living, but never learn how to live. They cannot make proper decisions because they do not even know the seriousness of their choices, let alone the standards by which choices should be made. God's Word tells us what our goal should be, and how it is to be reached. Not until a person is informed concerning the will of God can he overcome the problems the imposed adjustments demand of him.
Part of our problem in facing the ideal-real issue is the attempt to let God have His way, sometimes, but we reserve the final Judgments for ourselves. Unless God rules our lives, we cannot succeed. Compromise does not work!
We also must resolve that we must not abandon the fight. “ Let us not grow weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, If we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9).
Look At Yourself
Acquire and maintain a spirit of self-examination, striving to be fair and objective as possible, considering our weaknesses, but also our strengths. An unbalanced self-evaluation will produce crosscurrents in these dark waters of uncertainty that could capsize us. “ Prove your own selves,” was Paul's admonition. As you look at others, remove the beam from your own eye. This will enable you to see more clearly how to help others in removing their blemishes (Matthew 7:1-5) .We are probably over-educated in seeing the faults of others, and may curse the world in which we live. But cursing it will not correct it. How can we be of any assistance toward correction if we blind ourselves to our own faults and talents?
It helps some to realize that all mistakes and errors people make are not due to Satanic hypocrisy. Not everyone is trying to pretend to be what they really are not. Even many who blunder are sincere, striving to improve, but they are ignorant, possibly because they prefer to be that way, but often weak, frail, but pressing on. This does not mean we neither ignore wrong, nor allow ourselves to go along with wrong. But we must know that not everything needs changing. Only the bad needs changing. We must not throw out the good while reproving the bad. One hard lesson is learning the difference between what should be changed and what retained. But we better learn it as fast as we can!
Consider Your Heart
Face it! Our own attitude is a deciding factor in the movement from the realm of the ideal into the realm of the real. “ Let all that you do be done in love.” (First Corinthians 16:14). Do not confuse compromise with compassion, or love with liberty to do-your-own-thing. But this deals with our motives, which is a matter of the heart. If we will not be self-seeking, nor seeking change for change’s sake, nor asserting our own superiority over all else, but seeking the other's highest good as God defines the good, then we shall make a beneficial contribution in life. Love for God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, His church, His Word, His people and the people of the world will at least provide you a firm basis of operation. Without it you cannot really succeed. (First Corinthians 13:1-3). We may do many things, but motive is of paramount importance.
None of us are unique in facing this frustrating episode in life of witnessing the gross spread between the ideal and the real. But when we realize it exists, and get a grasp on our own foundations that are laid solidly on Christ from Biblical revelation, we will not only be victorious over it, but will be a valuable assistant to many others around us in overcoming it. Complacency and indifference, like compromise, is never the right way.
We may not be able to change the world. The devil and his influence is very much in evidence. But we can brighten the corner where we are. We may not bring the world to Christ, but that is not our assigned task. It is our Job to take Christ to the world. What the world does about Christ ultimately is a very personal and individual decision. We may not save the world, but like Noah, we can save our loved ones and ourselves. We shall be able to come to the close of life with the satisfaction we lived on God’s side, and we shall be met in eternity by the Savior and hear the words, “Well, done.” Is that not of value?
Others have met this problem and have made and are still making contributions toward the ideal in spite of the real. Now it is your turn. You might do better than those before you. But you will not do as well except God is your guide.