Sunday, March 02, 2008

Cynicism: Measurements

Continuing from "Cynicism: Highs and Lows"

My friend Sarah’s observation about my own cynicism highlighted my own pride and my own brokenness, and now it leads to even deeper matters. The dividing line between the wise and the unwise are those who, like Joseph, are “filled with the spirit of God” and those who aren’t (Rom 1:21-22, 28). My own cynicism and pride would put me in the second category. “Insolent, proud, and boastful . . . they refuse to understand . . . are heartless, and have no mercy,” seems to describe a cynic more than one who is “filled with the spirit of God.”

These are spiritual matters that I’m not sure I can navigate. Does my nature as a fallen man reduce my wisdom to nil? Does God’s redemptive work in my life raise me up to “understand the truths of God’s Spirit” and “evaluate all things”? Amid all this, I find only one constant: I am not the measure by which I evaluate all things. Whether my wisdom is broken or I “have the mind of Christ” makes no difference: I cannot measure anything against myself (or my ideal self). The standard by which I evaluate all things is God alone. Indeed, that was the purpose of the Law: to reveal God’s character. And the purpose of knowing God is that we might be like him.

It is a quick resolution to quote Proverbs and say, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I believe it is true but that proverb captures a deep and complex idea. In part, it means that we recognize God above all things, as the measure of all things, and the standard by which we compare all things, even ourselves. Indeed, that we do not measure up to God’s own good character is what Christians call sin.

I fall desperately again on the promise that God gives wisdom to those who ask, without considering all their (my) failures to measure up (James 1:5). Desperate because I can only ask, but I cannot take. I can only receive, I cannot find. In the end I echo the sentiments of a friend who writes, “I believe the promises of God. May he count me as righteous,” for righteous is what God is. It is part of his character to which I do not measure up. It humbles this cynical spirit, but it does not remove it. That is where I will turn next.

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