There is a cynic that God loves. He is a pessimist about new trends, new ideas, and new paradigms of culture, philosophy, and theology. Let’s get to know him a little, see how he lives day-to-day.
First, we’ll spend time in the man’s study, because that is where God formed the cynic within him. The moment you enter, the musty, old book smell envelops you. At the center of the man’s desk, a war-torn Bible is open to the Psalms. Pages are coming apart. Intelligible, coffee-stained notes mark every open space. On a nearby bookshelf, the largest, most prominent section is titled Classics. It has On the Trinity by Athanasius, Confessions by Augustine, and print editions of The Apostle’s Creed and the Westminster Confession of Faith. He reads from this section nearly every day, rehearsing truths Christians have embraced for centuries. Scan the rest of the room and you will find a collection of Puritan Paperbacks, including titles like The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes and The Mortification of Sin by John Owen. Another bookshelf will be devoted to the Reformation, with books by Luther and Calvin. On his favorite bookmark, a C.S. Lewis quote runs from top to bottom: “It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” He has Ecclesiastes 1:9 written on his wall: “That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.”
From the library, let’s move to the man’s living room, where we find him hosting a friend. This cynic loves people. Let’s eavesdrop on their conversation. They talk about the latest book on the friend’s nightstand. It’s a new treatise on the church. Seems this author has figured out why churches are so bad at, well, everything. They’ve been going about church all wrong! He has a fix that, the friend tells the cynic, will “revolutionize the way we do church.” Did you notice the cynic’s response? He bit his lip until it turned white! What was he holding in? Was it a laugh or cry? Or both? When the friend leaves, the cynic shakes his head, wears a bemused smile, and mutters “ahh my friend, always chasing the latest fad. Always looking to the future for solutions. I need to remember to send him some Chesterton.”
Now let’s go on a social visit with our cynic. This past Sunday, he introduced himself to visitors, a couple sitting in front of him at church. Our man enjoyed the conversation. Wanting to serve them through the grace of fellowship, he invites the husband and wife to his house for dinner the following week. Honored by the invitation, they readily agree, but they insist on hosting. “We want to be at our place, in case something happens.”
This cryptic comment confuses our man, but not eager to fish for details they did not volunteer, he does not ask questions. Perhaps they have a child with disabilities, or a pet that’s known to tear the house apart in their absence. He assumes the best—because he refuses to be that kind of cynic—and shows up at their home the following Thursday at the agreed time. Inside, there are neither children nor pets, so our man can’t find an immediate source of the cryptic comment. The couple seems pleasant, competent, intelligence, spiritually eager, and in love with each other. Where is the cause for worry? He can’t find it, until the wife gives the obligatory dinner instructions.
“Feel free to serve yourself. There are TV trays and we will eat in the living room so we can watch the news. We’ve just heard of a new law the congress is debating that could be the end of religious liberty in this country. It’s horrifying. We have to be informed.”
Our cynic’s heart sinks. He can believe such laws are being debated because they always have and always will be. He now understands last Sunday’s comment. They’ve bought into the lie that all news is urgent news. They are ensnared by an apocalyptic media.
Our man knows that, in these situations, the best way to disentangle is a long, leisurely conversation about ancient truths and the future promises of God.
He gently suggests they silence the TV and move to the dining room for such a conversation, but neither man nor woman hears. They stare open-mouthed as the glaring personality leans toward the camera—with disgust in his eyes and tone—and declares, with absolute certainty, that the other side is out to get those watching from the safety of home. Thankfully, he, the talking head, has found out what those rascals are up to and, in the next segment, he’s going to expose their malignant ends so you must—absolutely must—stay tuned after the commercials about toothpaste, trucks, vacuums, and Disney vacations. Our man polishes off his meal—he is serious about enjoying the God-given gift of food—stands up, cleans his plate and utensils, returns them to their cupboards, and departs. The couple never looks away from the TV. On the drive home, our man tries to think of a book he can give them that will help their next guests enjoy a better evening. By the time he reaches his house, he’s decided that a read through the book of Revelation—especially chapters 21 and 22—is what this couple needs more than anything.
Now that you’ve seen our cynic in action—reading old books, distrusting revolutionary ideas, rejecting the urgency of the media-saturated world he inhabits—let’s see him at rest. He is celebrating his 90th birthday. More friends and family than he can count surround him on this special day. He can no longer walk. His eyesight is dim. But the wit and mischief are sharper than ever. All around him are lives transformed by his cynicism. Several at this birthday party can remember how calm he was during this or that national crisis—how he gently mocked the hyperbole of the age, and simply didn’t believe it when someone would say the events of the moment were going to change the world—and how that reminded them of God’s sovereignty in every detail. Others will never forget his counsel during a personal crisis. For marital strife, for leadership failures, for bouts of anxiety, he was always relaying truth from that ancient, well-worn book on his desk. He was cynical of 21st century wisdom, not believing it superior to anything the first century had to offer. Still others had simply seen the peace in his eyes and on his face.
He was a man of the past who was ready for the future.
Watching him go about his day with a cynical view of the idea—so common throughout his life—that current events are the most important of our lifetime, or any lifetime. That attitude helped countless souls grasp another world, a world where all is right, and the darkness of the world is already defeated.
A few days later, he slips away in the middle of the night, called to heaven by His Lord and Savior. God has justified, sanctified, and now glorified him. He awakes in His Lord’s presence, and hears the sweetest words . . . “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Perhaps for our man, there was an addendum.
“You have been faithful in humility, distrusting yourself and the cultural dogmas swirling around you. Instead, you have trusted my past revelation for your present and future. You have refused to buy into the anxiety of this present age, instead believing that ‘the world is passing away and, and also its lusts; but the one who does my will abides forever. For that reason, cynic that I love, I will make you ruler over many ancient and timeless things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”