Murray&Carol in 1976

Cynicism and the Importance of Overcoming It

Yes, I live in the same world as you. In perusing news headlines, in a few moments, I read of

  • the injustice of a country's judicial system and the cruelty of it's prisons

  • the contradiction between the promises of a political candidate and the behaviour of his first two years in office; and

  • careful planning for a war publicly denied, contrasted with the vacuum of  planning for post-war reconstruction which would inevitability be required.

And that, as you may suspect, was not all.

How do we respond?

As you seek how best to invest your life or as you consider whether you will follow Christ, you may hear others shrug their shoulders in this kind of world and ask "what's the use?" You may wrestle with the draw of this stance yourself.

Understandable but unwise.

To say this does not ignore injustice and evil in the world at nearly every turn. Indeed, there is neither a Pollyanna attitude or ostrich-like denial of these realities in the Christian worldview. 

The genius of the Gospel rather includes it's ability to be uncompromising both its idealism and in the practicality of its realism.

Please choose the Gospel over cynicism. To succumb to cynicism is to give in to passivity and uselessness. Forgive my directness, but it's true and more: cynicism doesn't even make you feel any better; most of life's most devoted cynics, in addition to becoming useless to most outside their inner circle, also wallow deeply in self-pity rooted in self-evident truth about the world not being fair.

When Carol and I were invited to move from our home and family in Canada to serve in Europe in 2005 I was surprised that our host, during a fact-finding visit, focused almost exclusively on the challenges and problems of the assignment to which we where being invited. When another colleague later commented on that negativity, he said in a style more akin to my own:

"All your host said is true. The fact that the situation is difficult, even desperately so, is not the issue but a given on which we all agree. Once that is established however the question remains simply, "in light of this difficult reality, what are you willing to do to bring good to it?""

My plea to you is: please don't give up in the face of the injustice and evil evident in our world. Look rather to Jesus, who while appearing to the world to be defeated on the cross, overcame evil - including the passivity produced by the cynicism of his condemner (e.g. Pilate, "what is truth?" John 18:38), asked forgiveness for his crucifiers, and is risen and present to give courage to you and me to press forward with him.

Remember, the fact that we may not change everything or even little is not an adequate reason to do nothing. In fact, even if we could change little or nothing of a given circumstance we are still morally obligated to try, simply because it reflects the heart of Christ and is the right thing to do.

Perhaps you've seen this word of encouragement or can pass it on:



People are often unreasonable,

illogical and self-centered;

Forgive them anyway.


If you are kind,

People may accuse you

of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway.


If you are successful,

you will win some false friends and

some true enemies;

Succeed anyway. People may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway.


What you spend years building,

someone could destroy overnight.

Build anyway


If you find serenity and happiness,

they may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.


The good you do today,

people will often forget tomorrow.

Do good anyway.


Give the world the best you have,

and it may never be enough.

Give the world the best you've got anyway.


You see, in the final analysis.

it is between you and God;

It is never between you and them anyway.

Jesus speaks in Matthew 13 of the growth of both good and evil throughout history. Jesus does not assume all evil will be rooted out prior to His return. The fact evil remains however, is neither an adequate reason for cynicism or passivity. Rather Jesus assumes those committed to His Kingdom will continue to pursue good, justice and righteousness because doing so is right and is consistent with the character and glory of God our Father.