Pause for Thought November 2015

Avoiding Cynicism

christmasI confess that I will struggle over the next two months as the Christmas juggernaut approaches and passes. Already the redundant church of St John the Baptist in Stamford is selling Christmas cards and has decorations up. And when the church diary fills up with carol services, mince pies and the like, I confess that I can get cynical about many aspects of the season. I question people’s motives, their understanding of the season and just why we seem to equate Victorian practices and sentiment with the Biblical events in Bethlehem.

I am reminded of an incident in the Bible when I think of cynicism. Firstly, in 1st Samuel chapter 1 we read that a woman called Hannah is praying earnestly in the ‘house of the LORD’. Hannah felt the grief of her childlessness bitterly, exacerbated by the provocation of her husband’s other wife. She did the wise thing and brought her troubles to God in prayer. But whilst she was praying, Eli the old priest saw her moving, silent lips and thought her to be drunk. His initial cynical thoughts changed when she explained her situation.
Unfortunately, life can often fuel cynicism. However, there are heroes of the opposite too – people who think the best of people. Barnabas was one such man. After St Paul had his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, he returned to Jerusalem seeking fellowship with the Christians there. However, given his previous record for arresting and opposing Christians, their reaction to the news of Paul’s turn around was sceptical, fearing it might be a cynical ploy to get to them. The man who saw or assumed the best in Paul was Barnabas, who introduced Paul to those fearful, persecuted Christians. We are told in Acts 4 that the name Barnabas means ‘One who encourages’.

We are creatures of habit and our reactions to news, whether through the media or in conversation, will tend to follow certain patterns. As a follower of Jesus, perhaps I should try harder to watch my reactions to what I see happening around me, actively guarding my thoughts, trying to be less like Eli in his reaction to Hannah, and more like Barnabas in his reaction to Paul.

Wouldn’t it be better if we were all a little less cynical and more affirming and encouraging – at any time of the year?

Every blessing,
Rev Dave Maylor