How Are We To React To Cynics?

This is an important reflection for us today, in our times. Our time is often marked by an extreme tone of cynicism. Everything is questioned. But the questioning is often distorted by a kind of foolish arrogance. Instead of honest attempts to find answers, the questions of cynics are used more like statements of contempt. The cynic lives in a very small and pessimistic world and believes that only selfishness motivates human actions. They distrust acts of kindness or compassion and show contempt for accepted standards of morality. In our times, they are particularly cynical toward Christianity, or religion per se. They have become bitter toward the world.

Cynics are not new. Peter is addressing his beloved friends in the Christian community to be prepared for this kind of attitude from those around them. Many people around these new Christian communities scoffed at the idea of the Last Day. Peter uses an example of a cynical question when he writes, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (verse 4) We have heard similar “questions” from people around us today. This, of course, is not a “question.” It is more of a thumbing of the nose at what they perceive as foolishness. The cynic says, “Look, these “promises” have been around since the beginning of time and nothing has happened. The world just keeps going on as it always has.”

As Christians, we know this because the great promise of a redeemer which was given to Abraham and his children forever, was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In faith we understand that God’s infinite sense of time is not our sense of time and that God’s ways are not our ways. But we believe, too, that he is calling us to live more in accord with his ways each day. We do not sink into the darkness and despair of cynicism for we know that the promises of God are true and that they will be fulfilled. His promised Second Coming may not happen in our time, but that is of no concern to us. What we are concerned with is living our lives each day in a manner that is consistent with Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loved us, so that if today is the Last Day we will meet it with clean and joyful hearts. We do not demand as the cynic does, that God prove his promises to us in our own time, or in the way we think it should happen. We know that God’s love and faithfulness transcends our sense of time and space. We believe, even if we do not see. We know that God is larger than ourselves and, yet, that he has each one of our names written on the palm of his hand. We know that his word is good, and true, and that what he speaks will be.

How are we to react to the cynics that question our faith, or even scoff at us? Our response ought to be nothing less than compassion. Like Christ we are to respond to it with loving challenge. Faith in Jesus requires us to boldly answer the cynicism of our time with clear acts of love, compassion, mercy, justice and forgiveness. We do not need to concern ourselves with “proving” the Last Day’s reality to our cynical brothers and sisters. What we need to do is challenge the unjust structures that cause our day’s cynicism, by our loving service.

Lord, we believe in the Last Day. We long for your Second Coming and that time when there will be no more tears and no more death. We know that each and every day is a gift. Help us to live our days joyfully. Give us the strength of our faith to openly live the Christ life each day, as if it were the Last Day. Help us to see the wisdom of your love in all things. We pray this in our name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.
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