July 29, 2018: 10th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, being content with our blessings goes hand-in-hand with a joyousness over life. Both are attitudinal in nature and both show themselves in how we speak to and about others. Today, You tell us to speak the truth in love. Since such speech shows what is in our hearts, cleanse our hearts of all cynicism so that we can concentrate upon blessings instead.
TEXT: Ephesians 4: 11-16
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Recall the words of Christ in Matthew 18: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now I ask you: What’s the one thing that little children don’t have, unless and until life has beaten them up? The answer is: cynicism. And what is cynicism? It is the attitude of: nothing in life is free, to always look for ulterior motives, and basically to trust no one. Getting beaten down by sin creates cynicism. And it’s antithetical to faith.
All of us are infected with cynicism. The first time an adult lied to us and we caught them at it, it began to grow inside. By the 8th or 9th time it was confirmed: “You cannot trust anyone!” By your teenage years it was fully entrenched within. By early adulthood, you became pessimistic about people and trusted them only insofar as they could prove themselves and what they said to you first. Being hurt emotionally or physically by people you once trusted is what fosters a cynical attitude about life. Are cynical people fun to be around? Do they make you feel happy? Do they bring you joy? Is their speech uplifting? The answer is: No. And that brings us to you…..
Now, the cynic in all of us is probably objecting at this point. It is saying: “Life is hard, evil exists, and by recognizing it I’m just being a realist.” All of that is true. But as a Christian God has given you a new lease on life and a new attitude born of Christ’s resurrection from the grave. The ultimate in cynicism is the attitude: “Life is hard and then you die.” But for the Christian, we don’t die! We will rise again. And meanwhile, God has equipped us, through the Gospel, to “walk in the newness of life.” All of this comes from being eternally forgiven by Christ for all our negativity on the cross. Our God is not a cynic, and He didn’t suffer and die for us to be cynical about life, either.
The Christian Church and all its adherents should never be home to cynicism, but to joy and gladness. For us the Gospel reigns. The wonderment of peace with God reigns. What is faith but total contentment with the blessings Christ won for us on the cross? So, Christians need to rise above a pessimistic attitude about life and live, speak, and show what they have been saved for—that being works of Godly love and praise.
To do this, God has given the Church certain offices and people to help foster such behavior. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Cynical people are much more attuned to pointing out the splinter in another’s eye and ignoring the 2×4 in their own. They are much more adept at seeing and talking about some perceived negative motive in another than in forgiving them. In this they exhibit the very worst traits of children who have been beat up by life. Ultimately cynicism is a mark of spiritual immaturity. Paul picks up on that when he contrasts that with true Christian principles: “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
I love this passage. Note that Paul is a realist, but he’s never a cynic. He recognizes evil and how it negatively impacts us. But he then rises above any pessimism over that fact and soars into the glorious new life in Christ! And it all comes down to: “speaking the truth, but doing it in love.” If you’re gloomy about your life, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You center on negative emotions. You project those emotions on others. They, in turn, often reinforce your attitude, avoiding you, because they get only negativity from you. It’s the old: “To have a friend, you have to be a friend.” But here Paul gives us God’s marching orders for a new way to live! You can speak the truth, but always, always do it in love. Do it with a kind heart. Do it with compassion. Speak in a way which walks in their shoes. And never, ever, be afraid to show the love of Christ which dwells within you! The fact of the matter is this: Christ died for every soul. They are all precious to Him. If you’re trying to win a soul and change a life for Him and to Him—the love of Christ is the only way to do so.
One last thought. Recall the best teachers you ever had in school. Weren’t they the ones that honesty addressed your failings, set high standards for you, and yet did so with conviction and encouragement? They may not have been your pal—but you knew they really cared for and loved you. They spoke the truth in love. So now, in the words of Christ: “Go and do likewise.” Amen