The false gospel of cynicism
Today, at the ERLC blog, I talk about the mandate for joy in Philippines 4:8:
Yet Paul, without denying the misery of life in a fallen world, seems to say to followers of Jesus everywhere: “In light of what we have in Christ, let’s think on these things: truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, what is commendable and what is praiseworthy.”
In other words, let’s not focus solely on the evil in the world. Let’s not live as negative, apocalyptic reactionaries. There is time for lament, certainly. But given that we know the Man of Sorrows who has borne our grief, let’s train our minds to glimpse the beautiful, the unbroken, the rays of heaven’s sunshine upon the earth and the people Jesus is redeeming.
Paul could say this, not because he was a Pollyanna escaping reality, but because he had a greater grasp of reality than anyone who lived. A reality that says while yes, the world is broken, a man from Galilee lived, died, rose again and is now the rightful King. A new Kingdom has dawned, and light has broken in the darkness. There is a city coming whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10).
Paul’s words don’t simply give us permission to smile when things are upside-down. They are a mandate to rejoice in the often barely perceptible pinpricks of grace that penetrate our canvas of evil. So let’s, without guilt:
Rejoice in the stunning hues of a sunset.
Be enraptured by the beautiful laughter of our children.
Appreciate the best artistic expressions, regardless of their source.
Enjoy our favorite sporting events.
Pursue deep friendships.
Feel the grain a well-crafted piece of furniture.
Treasure every intimate moment with our spouses.
Laugh at good jokes.
Cry at the moments that catch our breath.
Allow the best music to flow through our ears into the deepest part of our hearts.
We can do these things, even in a world of suffering, heartache and toil. Not because we are ignorant of evil, but because we are part of his story of redemption, renewal and grace. We can do all these things to the glory of God. Why? Because anything beautiful or lovely or good can catapult our hearts into worship of the creator who made it.
Every time your child laughs and gives you joy, you can silently worship God, the giver of good gifts. And you can do this with a delicious meal, a glorious soundtrack, a delightful conversation, or anything that brings you wholesome pleasure. You can do this because every glimpse of beauty is a reflection of the one who is beautiful.