By Keith Simon
I’ve been called cynical and, unfortunately, I have to plead guilty as charged. I do have a cynical streak that requires constant monitoring. If not, it can send me into a tailspin, causing me to doubt that anything I do really matters.
My best guess is that my cynicism comes from growing up in a home where both of my parents worked in high-level state politics. Our kitchen was, quite literally, “the room where it happened.” As a young teenager I was the bartender. I served drinks to the state powerbrokers and listened in on their conversations. It may have made me cynical, but I also never viewed politicians through rose-colored glasses!
I don’t think I’m alone in my cynicism. We want to trust people, to give them the benefit of the doubt. But that also seems hopelessly naïve. Many of us look at the state of the world we live in and feel like it’s getting harder to trust anyone. Ever. If that’s you, I know how you feel, but how does that work out in real life?
To the cynic everyone has an agenda. No one can be trusted. Everyone is spinning for their own advantage.
After presidential debates, staff members advocate for their candidate with the media in the Spin Room. This is where the candidate gets another chance to tell their version of the truth with the goal of shaping the news coverage.
But what happens when the whole world becomes a giant Spin Room? I guess we are finding out.
Mistrust leads to cynicism. Cynicism leads to despair. And when despair is full-grown, we lose hope that we can make a difference.
Despairing Christian: The Ultimate Oxymoron
Question: How do those who believe that “with God all things are possible” lose hope that people and the world can change?
Answer: They misunderstand Jesus’s resurrection.
Sometimes, Christians are so focused on proving that the resurrection happened that they lose sight of what difference the resurrection makes in their lives. As important as it is to ask, “Did it happen?” It shouldn’t distract us from asking, “What difference does it make?”
Oddly, modern Christians think about the resurrection in ways the Bible doesn’t. For many, the main benefit of Jesus’s resurrection is that they’ll go to heaven when they die. But the Bible never talks about the resurrection that way.
Instead, the Bible says that the resurrection declares that Jesus is God’s Messiah, God’s anointed king.
The Gospels tell the story of how King Jesus defeated all the rival kings, including Herod, Caesar, and the dark spiritual forces under the authority of “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).
Jesus’s opponents thought they’d defeated him at the crucifixion. But instead, they enthroned him. He won by dying. It is after the resurrection that Jesus announces that “all authority in heaven on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
Jesus is the reigning and universal king.
We live our lives between two worlds. The world as it is now, corrupted by sin. And the world of the resurrection in which sin and death have been defeated. Jesus taught us to pray for God’s world to come to our world (Matthew 6:10).
God’s Coming Kingdom Turns Cynics into Optimists
Cynicism says don’t waste your time mentoring a kid because it’s insignificant compared to all the disadvantages he faces. Cynicism says addicts can’t change, that the community is too divided for racial harmony, that a small group meets too infrequently to make much of a difference, that a 30-minute sermon isn’t going to change anyone’s life, that too many years have passed for this marriage to turnaround, that the school system is too broken to justify running for school board, that we live in a world of sin and death so you might as well make the best of it you can.
Cynicism says the world is too messed up for you to make a difference.
The resurrection takes a clear-eyed look at this broken world and agrees with cynicism’s diagnosis but not the prognosis.
Yes, the world is messed up, but Jesus is risen. Yes, you are only one person, but Jesus reigns. Yes, injustice and oppression are real, but Jesus’s kingdom is coming.
Paul finishes his discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 with the ultimate reason to keep pressing on to love and good deeds in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58
The resurrection says that your prayers, your sacrificial giving and serving, your work, your counseling, your friendships, your efforts matter. Cynicism is ahead today, but love wins the future. Don’t give up.
How will you fight cynicism in your life this Easter? Check out our Easter page for uplifting and engaging content to help you connect with the resurrection story this year.