To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
I was reading through Titus last night and this well-known passage struck me in a way I had never considered before. Convicting and challenging, the words of Paul revealed a great truth.
In 43 years on this third rock from the sun, one of the worst personal qualities I’ve developed is cynicism. Always considered to be an idealist as a younger man, I was branded a hopeless optimist. I remember working at a Christian summer camp and having one of the girls on staff ask me why I was happy all the time. I was stunned that she even asked such a question. Wasn’t a sunny disposition the fruit of God’s Spirit living within us?
But over the years, disappointments and the profound corruption of mankind set in. You read the newspapers, watch the TV news shows, and the relentless depravity of it all sets you adrift on a lonely raft in a sea of bad news. Time has a way of turning idealists into despairing optimists, then into world-weary pessimists. Sooner or later, everything (and everyone) gets tainted one way or another.
You see the signs soon enough. Your snide remarks interrupt TV shows, movies, ordinary conversations, even church, a litany of snarky asides that would put Mystery Science Theater 3000 to shame. You comment on everything. Maybe you even start blogging.
A child’s birthday party becomes an opportunity to pontificate on the creepiness of clowns or the corporate calculation that gave us Chuck E. Cheese and his rodent ticket redemption center packed with two cent toys manufactured in Togo. Your husband announces he’s going shopping for you and your first thought is, Does he know of any stores besides Home Depot? Or when the football star scores a touchdown, you ponder just how many pounds of steroids he has in his system. You hope one day to see the perfectly coiffed pastor’s wife with her hair looking like a rat’s nest—just once.
The football game, birthday party, shopping trip, even someone we like—doesn’t it feel good on occasion to feel superior? To long for that bit of dirt that taints to our advantage?
I hate being cynical. It may make for clever writing, but cynicism and sarcasm only exist to take what is pure and slop it up. In its worst guise, it skips the cleverness altogether and goes right for crassness and sleaze. Your neighbor who talks family values every chance she gets is probably hiding her affair with the mailman. The nice, helpful single guy at church who just turned thirty is most certainly gay or a pedophile—there’s got to be something wrong with him. Can’t we all think of a million situations?
But to the pure, all things are pure. The birthday party is a wonderful expression of togetherness and love for a child. The football game is a time to enjoy life with friends. The husband’s offer is a response of tenderness. The pastor’s wife with the nice hair is one of God’s favorite people. That second thought never slips through the neurons. The pure enjoy life free of subtitles and running commentary.
New Year’s resolutions fall prey to snark about as well as anything, but for 2006 I know that my resolution is to allow the pure to stay pure, to develop a countercultural mind that steers clear of tainting what is pure. I don’t need to feel superior all the time or to impress my own deviance onto people and situations that never asked for my clever wit.
It’s all too easy to descend, isn’t it?
Before year’s end, I’m going to write about developing the mind of Christ for 2006. Letting the pure be pure is just one step in that direction. Stay tuned.
9 thoughts on “To the Pure, All Things Are Pure”
Dan, as a hopeless Pollyanna, I’m so glad to hear of your resolve to come back to the glass-is-half-full side. It’s so much more fun over here. : )
Welcome back! And may your new year be free of cynicism and full of joy.
Like you and surely more than you, I’ve forgotten what being positive is like. I was more positive and full of belief than anyone I know as a young man. Into my middle and late twenties I just kept believing. But after I turned thirty and got scraped up for the umpteenth time, I’ve all but forgotten what a positive perspective looks like. Cynicism is the human response teflon coat that we put on to protect ourselves from unpleasant experiences. I’d like to take that jacket off sometime.
Dan- Thank you for the honest post. I am a social worker of 8 years. I was crusty and cynical as those that have labored at it for 20 years. I have looked on in disgust at the fresh hopefuls that naively took jobs working with the homeless, the impoverished and the broken. I too thought that I could change the world, once. I saw these “youngsters” as misguided and sophomoric. (I’m 32 years old.) I was wrong.
I long for the freshness and hope I once had in serving the poor and the needy. I am jealous for the joy, the freedom, the serenity and the knowing that my Lord has sovereignty in this fallen world and grace for his people.
Cynicism is a poison that I am learning to abstain from for want of choosing life over death. It is a tough road, but one can be rich with God. (Janet)
I have been working at developing a sense of optimism. I know too many people (friends, enemies, Romans, countrymen) who are down all the time, and extraordinarily pessimistic.
I think spending 2006 on developing a Christ-like attitude towards all and sundry would be a good thing. I think I’ll tune my blog toward that end.
Thanks for the reminder. It’s too easy to become cynical! Time for me to take a strong dose of the best antidote I’ve found — Jude.
10Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animalsï¿½these are the very things that destroy them.
11Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
May God have mercy upon us all!
“Notice that it does not say all things can be VIEWED as pure, but that all things ARE pure. I point this out because of our tendency to negate this reality as if it was merely theoretical and not factual. But it is reality.”
Grace to you,
Thanks for reminding me why I read your writings now and will continue to do so in 2006. Another thought provoking post.
You wrote this on my 43rd birthday. You were there to help me celebrate my 18th birthday, although you might not remember it. It amazes me all these years later that we are both in the publishing business. I like your work.
This article remindes me of the time about 20 years ago there was a lot of buzz about a book titled “Terror in the Toybox” in which folks were warned about the evils of Barbies, Superheroes, etc. I tried to follow the priciples with my daughter who was born shortly after the book’s publication. However I always felt like I was stifling her creativity and also, somehow, her natural idealism. With my son who is only six I have decided to take a lighter approach. I encourage his role play and applaud his creativity. It is all so sweetly innocent.
You are right, the world could do better with less cynicism.
This post got on my nerves. You are so self-absorbed! I would never blog on cynicism. I’m not cynical at all. I’m a dad-gum optimist for goodness sake!! Oh well, I guess all bloggers are snarky and whiny. Gosh. . .