The Sin Beneath Our Cynicism
If you’re like me, you are often tempted to indulge in cynicism. It’s the urge to believe that things aren’t quite what they portray themselves to be; it’s the assumption that an ulterior motive is at work, an impure approach is practiced, or a better way is intentionally overlooked. These thoughts are destructive and can often tempt a Christian in church: ‘That worship song was so ______(fill in the blank of criticisms: ‘lame’ ‘old’ ‘trendy’ ‘wordy’ ‘emotional’); ‘That community only cares about ______ (‘Bible study’ ‘those of their own age’ ‘their own agenda’); ‘His preaching was too _______ (‘theological’ ‘focused on sin’ ‘full of stories’). The temptations for cynicism abound and can easily lead the heart to coldness toward God and others; it can even fill us with an eagerness to withdraw from Christian community altogether. I think this is especially so for my generation, the millenials.
While Christians are called to be discerning (Matt 10:16), we aren’t called to be cynical. Cynicism is rooted in the proud assumption that we are smarter, more holy, and more caring (or some other quality) than those around us. It is often disguised as discernment (‘I’m only asking this because I care about others), but this cloak is unmasked when we look deeper into our hearts: Am I truly concerned about Christ-exalting, God-centered worship, or am I offended because I am not seeing my preferences affirmed and practiced? Do I really want to see a community that is biblical and burden-sharing, or do I merely hope more for a community that pleases my own interests? Are my questions about preaching really out of a desire for seeing more people understand the Scriptures, repent and believe the gospel, or do I just wish the preacher sounded more like someone else I enjoy listening to?
I think the key is asking this: Are my concerns biblically driven and rooted in love of God and love of neighbor, or are they primarily based on my own preferences and out of a desire for self-exaltation? If we are honest with ourselves, I think we’ll admit that the sin beneath our cynicism is pride. Pride is thinking too highly of oneself. It is what alienates us from God, as we believe we are more important and smarter than Him. It is what drives our cynical attitudes as we struggle to have a godly attitude in church. It is what fuels our love affair with cynicism.
But praise God that Jesus delivers us from this foolish evil. He frees us to humbly love God and serve others. He frees us to reject cynicism and to instead pray for our pastor as preaches the Word of God. He frees us to humbly serve others in community and love them. He frees us to show grace to others and to receive it ourselves. When this happens, Jesus is exalted and our hearts rejoice. Let us reject pride, repent of our cynicism, and rest in Jesus, who died for our sins.