We live in an age of cynicism. Perhaps you’ve noticed this yourself. No matter how good, nice, or well-intentioned the action, statement, or event, the default position of many today is skepticism, sarcasm, and slams. Having such an attitude is seen as being astute and intelligent. The critic who is harshly critical of everything is elevated to a position of superiority. This attitude has quietly infiltrated the church and infected many believers. After all, being sarcastic is fairly easy – even kids pick up that habit quite easily and quickly. Not all sarcasm is misplaced, of course, but its overuse has contributed to this age of cynicism.
Are there reasons to be cynical? Yes – more than I care to count. If we look at the political arena, we have long known that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely, in the words of Lord Acton. Ronald Reagan once suggested that politics was the world’s second old profession…and that it bore a strong resemblance to the oldest one! Scandal after scandal, broken promise after broken promise…is it any wonder that truth and faith in government is so abysmally low? Yet it is not only the political scene; the church has suffered from the repeated blunders of those who hold prominent positions. We Southern Baptists are not exempt, especially in recent days. Our movies create and celebrate what are known as “anti-heroes,” characters that are deeply flawed (in very serious ways), do things the wrong way, don’t always have the best intentions, and yet are the protagonists of the story, held up as role models.
The cynicism that has been bred in our culture has seeped into the church. There was a time when pastors were held in high esteem within a congregation and a community, but today that confidence has eroded. In 2017, Gallup asked the following question: “Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields.” Nurses ranked the highest, with 82% responding with a “Very high” or “High” rank. Clergy were ranked ninth, with only a 42% rating of “Very high” or “high.” The cultural cynicism has become an ecclesiological cynicism, which has a significant impact on the effectiveness of the church. After all, if you don’t trust the leadership, will you submit to them, follow the vision they have from God, and imitate them as they imitate Christ? Of course not.
Brothers and sisters, each of us is at risk of becoming cynical. That harsh spirit can infect us if we are not careful, leading us to be distrustful of not only the church’s leadership, but of one another, as well. Once cynicism has wrapped its tentacles around our hearts, we begin to lose hope; after all, if everything is wrong, why should we have any hope? The world is indeed marred in every way by sin and creation groans under the weight of the curse. But God has sent Jesus, His only Son, to redeem the world! We have been given hearts of flesh, hearts that are to be filled with love, faith, and hope. Scripture is replete with the encouragement to hope (e.g., Rom. 12:12; Rom. 15:4; Rom. 15:13; Isa. 40:31; Psa. 39:7; Isa. 41:10; 1 Pet. 3:15; Heb. 6:19-20; to name but a few!). When the world around us is mired in cynicism, be the light of hope, because you have the light of Christ. Just something to think about…