“How do you fight cynicism? Stay curious.”
This is my third year teaching at a school in the Kansas City area. Each of the past two years we have begun back-to-school teacher training with a sermon from a local pastor, a message reminding us of our duty to mold the children and young men and women in our charge.
This year my attention was particularly piqued by an idea from the sermon. The pastor asked us, “How do you fight cynicism?”
“Stay curious,” he followed up.
As teachers it is easy to become cynical towards human nature, but this isn’t just a teacher issue; people in general become cynical to human nature, even our own! And these critical attitudes are often amplified in a Christian context.
“His dad is a deacon!”
“She sings on the worship team!”
“I saw her acting so righteous last summer at Christian camp!”
“I’m supposed to be a Christian!”
We find it difficult to see past the moment, and one “bad apple” becomes a bushel until we feel impelled to echo Paul’s words in Romans 3:10: “None is righteous, no, not one” (ESV).
However, this group of teachers gathered to be encouraged for the upcoming year, and we were challenged to fight cynicism by staying curious. Curious about what?
We must remain curious about the potential for good in each and every human being we encounter.
“For we are [God’s] workmanship,” Paul writes to the church at Ephesus (ESV, Ephesians 2:10). Another translation says we are His “masterpiece” (NLT). In fact, the apostle Paul was an ardent advocate of grace. Why was he able to stay curious? Because he saw the great odds God overcame in saving him, a religious extremist with hands stained by the blood of his mission to persecute the early followers of the Way. “I was the worst sinner!” he declares to his protege (1 Timothy 1:15). “If God can save me, I want to stay curious about what He will do in all the lives of other ‘lost causes.'”
One of my favorite bands is Anberlin whom I’ve had the incredible opportunity to see live a few times, and I’m reminded of the song with which they’d finish all their performances: “*Fin.”
We’re not questioning God.
Just those he chose to carry on His cross.
We’re no better, you’ll see.
Just all of us, the lost causes.
Aren’t we all to you just lost causes?
Are we all to you lost?
So all we are to you,
Is all we are, is all we are
All we are is all we are
I’ve always been drawn to the faith and lyrical depth and authenticity (and power of Stephen Christian’s voice) present in Anberlin’s work, and “Fin*” is an anthemic reminder of our own lostness but also a subtle nod to God’s grace. If you listen closely to the tone and context, you too might hear the unhinging of that all-too-familiar phrase “lost causes.” Here “lost causes” is not a moniker of our worthlessness but rather our immense value that is identified by Him amidst our wandering. We are causes who are lost, but we are causes nevertheless. There is One who still sees us and pursues us.
I hope to stay curious this year. I hope by God that I abandon no lost cause because who am I, chief of sinners, to turn my back on anyone?
What you don’t hear on the album version of “Fin*” but what is sung at the end of their live shows is the final refrain of ultimate Christian hope:
“We’ll live forever, forever, FOREVER!”