Today, I believe God is drawing our attention toward the prune-worthy branch of cynicism.
Cynicism is an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest. When we are cynical, we are not only distrustful of human nature and motives, but we also believe that people are without hope and will never change.
Cynicism has many negative consequences, the most severe of which is that we fail to see people from God’s perspective. To the God of unrelenting redemption, nobody is beyond His transformative reach.
And yet, it’s entirely natural to be cynical because, as we believe, people are sinful and broken. The image of God resides in all, but that image is distorted. Indeed, if Genesis 3 speaks to the reality of the human condition, then it is valid to believe that human nature is corrupt and people have poor motives.
This is only made worse by the era in which we live. Because of polarization and echo chambers, our negative perceptions are reinforced (see here or here). In such an environment, it’s hard to believe that anyone will ever change.
Still, God calls us to see the best in people and draw out who God has called them to be. This is one of the primary character traits that we see in both Jesus and Paul. They seem to have an unrelenting belief that no one is beyond the reach of God’s transformative grace. And of course, Paul himself is a living testimony of why we should believe that people can radically change.
Moreover, as I mentioned in the sermon on February 26 (link), those of us who follow the narrative of Genesis 1 must also believe that human beings have more potential depth and beauty than the Grand Canyon.
However, we will never be able to see the best in people if God does not first prune our cynicism. If we want to add the “faith, hope, and love” that Jesus embodies, we may first need to let the Vine-grower prune the cynical parts of us that bear no fruit.
TODAY’s ACTION: As you go through your day, ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you are cynical. When you get a glimpse of cynicism, ask the Master Gardener to prune that branch so that you might bear the kind of fruit that Jesus and Paul bore. (Of course, if you’re reading this at the end of the day, reflect on your interactions and ask God to prune any places of cynicism.)