"And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." - II Timothy 2:24-26
"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." - II Corinthians 5:18-20
The Christian Cynic?
By Gretchen Barbieri
Cynicism is everywhere. Americans today seem to be walking a tightrope of agitation, prodded on by the ever present panels of dissenting "experts," whose commentary on nationwide television often turns into shouting matches. A sense of futility descends like a wet blanket. Racial and economic stereotypes persist. The rich don't want to help the poor because they are "a bunch of free-loading welfare addicts." The poor are incited to hate the rich, whom they automatically equate with corruption. There is a chasm of mistrust between the working man and the chairman of the board. Political tempers flare! No-one even wants to hear what the other side has to say; minds are made up and vacuum sealed. And so it seems that American society is becoming more and more polarized.
Christianity is not unaffected by this condition. As a group, many of us are disheartened by the growing antagonism we perceive from the secular realm. The world feels that it has already heard the Christian message, and Christians feel like they have already given it?many times over!
When the minds of non-Christians seem to be so resolutely made up, what is left for Christians to do but keep their heads low and hope for the world to end? That, after all, is our "trump card," if you will forgive the expression. We might say to the world, "Well, it's all going to burn ?Hallelujah!" It's like the old song, "The Gospel Ship" goes, "If too much fault you find, you'll sure be left behind while I go sailing through the air!"
Can you really be a Christian with this kind of attitude? It is common enough these days that maybe we're used to it: that old theme of despair and defeat?and yes, cynicism! Despair is defined as to "give up hope utterly, or to give up all expectation."1 Have we lost our hope and expectation of winning souls to God?
To be a cynic is to be "one who expects nothing but the worst of human conduct and motives, or to "be given to fault-finding, sneering, and sarcasm."2 Trouble is, none of this is compatible with the Fruits of the Spirit! Where is our Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, and Temperance?3 We're falling into the same fleshly frame of mind as the world!
It also means throwing up our hands and giving up on the Great Commission. Why bother going "into all the world and preach the Gospel,"4 if all you expect is failure? Paul reminded us that our Lord would "have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth,"5 Yes, the road is narrow, and few there be that find it, but consider the consequences if Christians surrender to despair and cynicism: no one will then hear the message of the Gospel.
I believe that the heart of God is mourning for the lost souls on this world. Do we feel the same burden, or are we stone cold in our jaded pessimism toward the lost?
While the end of the world means the creation of a new heavens and earth, the end of sorrows, and the joy of perfect fellowship with our Lord for the saved, consider what it means for the lost. Stop and think about it: It's over! Millions of human souls perish forever, because they did not become reconciled to God. That thought should break through our cynical minds and grip us with horror.
We need to be more accountable for the condition of the world around us. What happens to the world on our watch is our business! "But my hope is in the Lord," someone may respond. "Everything on this world is only going to get worse and worse. There is no hope except to wait for Jesus to return."
And so it is that one may sit and wait atop a figurative hilltop, removed from all the world. He frets anxiously over the evil that multiplies at the foot of his hill. The more the evil grows, the more justified he feels for having isolated himself. "Well, the Bible says we're 'in the world but not of it,' so I shouldn't have anything to do with the world." But having abandoned "the whole mess" to sit on his hilltop, is he even 'in the world' at all?
What did Jesus do? He wouldn't have accomplished his purpose if He had hidden himself away for three and a half years. Was He not criticized vehemently by the Pharisees for eating with tax collectors and adulteresses? In their minds, if He were a good Jew, He should have kept himself separate from such elements. Instead, He reached out to Samaritans, lepers and other "undesirables." He never took part in sin, but he was out among the people, extending his hand to them in love, telling them "Go and sin no more."
As much as we might hate to admit it, there are reasons why the world is trying so hard to choke out the Word of God in this generation. The biggest reason is sin. But whose sin? It's not theirs alone! How easy it is for the whisperer, the deceiver to point to the problems of "Christianity!" If he can point to real things in order to discredit the Gospel message, he will, every time.
Just consider the arsenal we have collectively provided the Enemy: "Christians" are disdainful of sinners. They mock other religions, they scorn homosexuals, they crack jokes about the "idiots" who harbor differing political viewpoints. Some people who call themselves Christians engage in dishonorable business practices, they are defensive and reactionary, and they even fight bitterly with one another, parting company over the slightest thing. Think about that one again: They don't even like one another! Who then do they get along with? So much for that "Love of God" they talk about. Ouch.
Honestly consider how so-called Christians have behaved over the past thousand years or so and we may gain some insight into the very hardened, cynical view the world has taken of our "faith." We are supposed to be holding the banner of Truth; the answer; the way out of the bondage of sin, not idly watching the world go to hell in a handbasket! If we don't first live the Truth of God's Love, the world will never see it as the solution.
We know that there are real Christians sharing the love of God and the precious gospel. What I'm talking about here is that too often, shame has been brought upon the Body of Christ, creating a greater stumbling block for the world at large, to discourage them from becoming reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. The scripture tells us that we are "living epistles, known and read of all men,"6 and for good reason! Also, that we are "ambassadors for Christ"7 in this world. What we do, as well as what we refuse to do, reflects on the Heavenly country which we represent.
The unsaved form opinions and prejudices about the Kingdom of God based upon the actions of those who say they are its citizens, much the way some people are disposed to form broad opinions of other races based on their experiences with only a few members of that race. The Christian bumper sticker on the back of the minivan is sending the wrong message about Jesus when the driver cuts someone off on the freeway or otherwise exhibits disregard for common courtesy on the road. The unsaved driver thinks in his anger, "Yeah. That's how Christians are. Bunch of hypocrites!"
When we treat others fairly, stretch out our hands to the needy, and take a stand for justice,8 the message of the Gospel can make a far greater impact as it comes from our lips. The Truth of God's Word must be shared without insults and mockery,9 in fact, belittling the opposing side to make one's cause seem greater is a device often used by the world. The Holy Spirit is supposed to be doing the convicting; there is no reason to insult anyone or react in impetuous defensiveness.
The Truth can handle itself, regardless of whether it is being accepted or not. Someone's rejection of God's Word is not going to change its immutability. It is still true. We can rest in the security of that fact. Whenever we find ourselves getting defensive, it should be a red flag to tell us we are in the flesh! In our flesh, we feel a sort of confidence in ourselves when the majority around us believes the same way we do. When they don't, and we are in the minority, it's very easy to let bitterness and frustration get a foothold. But if we are in Christ, the Peace of God gives us the patience and the understanding that we need to communicate with the world.
Let us then earnestly pray that we might serve God in the Spirit, and not fall into the trap of cynical immobility; that we would never despair of our calling. Let us prayerfully seek to be faithful representatives of our Lord Jesus Christ on this earth, that our witness would bear fruit when the world sees clearly that He is real. Let us speak with love, clarity and patience to even the scoffers, leading many to be reconciled to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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The following is a list of the references used in the writing above. All scriptures are taken from the King James Version.
- Webster's Third New International Dictionary (unabridged)
- Galatians 5:22-23
- Mark 16:15
- I Timothy 2:3-4
- II Corinthians 3:2
- II Corinthians 5:18-20
- Malachi 2:4-8; Psalm 72; Psalm 82:2-4; Ezekiel 22:29; Proverbs 1:1-3
- II Timothy 2:24-26