by J. Murdock—
Whenever someone begins a statement with, “You’re not going to believe this, but…” I always wonder what led them to lead off with an expectation of disbelief. Of course, these days it seems like everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In a world of false claims and a constant barrage of argumentation between what “he said” and “she said,” there is an unspoken skepticism about everything.
Skepticism is understood to be an attitude of doubt about the authenticity of things we see or hear. In many ways, skepticism can be a healthy approach to information when it is given without supporting facts that can be verified readily. Skepticism is what led me to keep my cool when I received a phone call from the Social Security Administration informing me that my Social Security number had been suspended because it had been involved in a crime, and I needed to confirm my SSN to reactivate it after paying a small fee of $100. Because of my skepticism, I was able to save myself $100 up front and a season of headaches trying to cancel credit cards that were opened in my name after the fact. But what happens when the same skepticism that aided me in protecting my assets grows to doubt more than just the suspect things in my life and begins to isolate me from anything other than my own opinion in the echo chamber to which I retreat to for safety and security?
Skepticism becomes cynicism quickly if we aren’t careful to create an internal system of checks and balances. Cynicism is the belief that all people are motivated by self-interest. Cynicism leads to tunnel vision that can barricade you from hearing opinions different from your own because they don’t match what you already believe to be true. It has the ability to place you in alliance with the news station you watch because the other news station is comprised of villains, liars, and cheats. Cynicism is no longer an attitude but a belief that breeds a lifestyle of doubt.
Imagine for a moment that you find yourself in the middle of a field and a voice speaks from the figure of an angel reflecting the Light of the Lord into the darkness. That angel says that a baby has been delivered to the world as the Savior of all humanity. The angel then tells you that God has selected you to visit the baby and his parents, in order to bear witness to the greatest miracle ever to happen on earth.
The skeptic, while skeptical, is also intrigued and may actually take the side quest to Bethlehem to see whether or not the story is true. The cynic likely wouldn’t move a muscle and would instead declare the story “fake news.”
The shepherds were neither skeptics nor cynics. According to Luke 2:15, they said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened” (NIV).
We all have the opportunity to apply logic and reason to everything we hear in order to preserve our sanity in an otherwise confusing world. But before you make a final decision and act in line with how you have predetermined the order of the world to be, reserve judgment when something in your soul stirs. Your mind and heart may already be swayed by the positions you have taken up to this point, but your soul still belongs to the Lord. Keep it open to the will of the Spirit. For if you do, you will find yourself at the start of an unforgettable journey you can’t afford to miss out on. Merry Christmas!
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado. This blog is adapted from a piece he wrote for Daily Walk, the Boulder church devotional and study guide.