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Why Cynicism Is My Best Pastoral Attribute

8 · 09 · 17

If there’s one thing that makes me cynical, it’s optimists.- Julian Baggini

This explains a lot. I am not a fan super-optimistic, everything is coming up roses, and farts smell like new car smell, kind of people. I’ve always been like this and I have finally embraced it.  I was called a cynic the other day and I was ok with that. Cynicism, in my opinion, in small doses, is a good thing.

For years I have quoted Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Having been in ministry for over 30 years, and alive on the planet for 49, this statement has been proven true in both believers and non-believers. Was Jeremiah a cynic? Or, had he just seen the worst humanity had to offer and stated the obvious?

Cynicism is

believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.

I believe both of this is true of human beings in general, myself  included The difference is I, like the Apostle Paul, believe there is nothing good in me. I ‘m blessed with a self awareness that will not allow me to put full trust and reliance on myself.

Cynism is not hopelessness. Cynicism is not faithlessness. Cynicism is putting hope and faith in God rather than people. People say they lose hope in humanity, I say good for them. That’s progress.

How many times have you heard “this pastor has an affair” and “this speaker was caught doing such and such’? It seems, human frailty is par for the course in scripture, so why should I be shocked at humanities propensity, Christian or otherwise, for self destruction?

But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them,for He knew all men. He did not need any testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.…John 2:24

Was Jesus a cynic because He didn’t trust mankind? Because he already knew what man could/would do?

Living  a cynic’s life offers me the opportunity to be genuinely surprised and thrilled when someone does something loving and sacrificial.

A healthy, spiritual cynicism means..

I don’t buy the false positives of religion and look for, and embrace, the true fruit of a changed life in Christ.

I don’t believe all the good things people say about me and thereby inflate my ego.

I don’t believe every youth meeting is great and that nothing is wrong. Something is always wrong and may be never be fixed, but God’s grace is sufficient.

In Julian Baggini’s article, In Praise of Cynicism he concludes

We can’t make things better unless we see quite how bad they are. We can’t do our best unless we guard against our worst. And it’s only by being distrustful that we can distinguish between the trustworthy and the unreliable.

I could not agree more. Let’s stop saying how great everything is, or how great we are, and  point the searchlight of cynicism on ourselves so we can bring those things in the dark into the light of Christ.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

Putting my own life under the cynics microscope, first, allows me to stay humble and positive that things can change. If Jesus can do it in me, He can do it in anyone.




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