[This is a guest post by my friend Ricky Alcantar. He is the Senior Pastor at Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas.]
I have a favorite T-Shirt that says: “This was supposed to be the future. Where is my jetpack?”
I’m a twenty-something and my generation is one that has seen many of the idealistic promises of the last century come largely unfulfilled (jetpacks? flying cars? world peace? freedom and justice for all?).This means we’ve turned out as a pretty cynical generation, and we’ve made it something to be proud about. We’ve realized that everyone is trying to sell us something, that everything is product placement, and we’ve learned the cold truth that Disneyland is not powered by magic but by a huge system of underground tunnels. So we like our humor dry, we like our slogans ironic, we like our heroes witty and disillusioned.
But the problem is that this cynicism might just kill our generation.
I have to admit as a twenty-something myself that cynicism is pretty seductive. When you’re cynical you don’t get hurt easily because you assume that everything is hopeless to begin with. Cynicism is a shield protecting us from disappointment. We don’t want our dreams thrown out like New Coke or NASA’s Space Shuttle Program so we just don’t have dreams anymore.
Among many others, there are two problems with cynicism according to Scripture:
Cynicism Keeps Us from Rightly Mourning
In a world where we’re used to images of natural disasters and email chains about the plight of orphans in the third world cynicism keeps us from weeping over things that should cause us to weep. Our hearts should break as we sin the effects of a sin-ravaged world around us.
Here’s one example: After God’s people were released from their exile in Babylon the city of Jerusalem was lying in ruin even decades after many Jews had returned home. Some small attempts were made to rebuild but they were ultimately halted. So year after year God’s people with God’s work lying in ruin. Until one day a man named Nehemiah heard another report that the walls of Jerusalem were still broken down and the city was still in ruin. Here was his response: “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4 ESV). The whole rebuilding project recorded in Nehemiah begins because Nehemiah heard the news that everyone else heard–but the difference is that Nehemiah’s heart was utterly broken at the news.
We live in a world ravaged by the effects of sin and it should cause us to weep even as it caused Jesus to weep. It should cause us, like Nehemiah, to pray to the Lord and then to work hard to rebuild.
Cynicism Keeps Us from Rightly Rejoicing
When we cynically assume that every good venture will ultimately fail, we miss out on rejoicing where we should rejoice. We can be so guarded that when we see God at work, we think, “Well there are still a million things that can go wrong…” instead of simply seeing what God has done and rejoicing.
Later in the book of Nehemiah after the wall around Jerusalem is rebuilt Nehemiah actually commands the people to rejoice (Neh 8:9). These were people acutely aware of their sin before God, acutely aware of how much more needed to be done and it would have been easy to be cynical. But God wanted them to rejoice in what he had done through them already. So the people “went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing” (Nehemiah 8:12 ESV).
Though we live in a broken world, evidences of God at work are all around us and we glorify God when we rightly rejoice when we see him at work.