One of my favorite ancient characters is Diogenes of Sinope. Born in Turkey about 400 years before Christ, he was a student of Antisthenes (444-370 BC), who was himself a pupil of Socrates. His philosophy was “marked by an ostentatious contempt for ease, wealth, and the enjoyments of life.” Diogenes would have had a field day skewering the consumerism and materialism in modern day America. One of the things that I love about Diogenes is his moniker. The irascible philosopher was known as Diogenes the Cynic. What a great name! How cool would that be to have a title like that? It certainly is better than Diogenes of Sinope. I would gladly swap Dave of Garland for Dave the Self-Deprecating as my appellation any day.
One story relates that while Diogenes was sunning himself, the powerful and feared Alexander the Great came up to him and offered to grant him any request. “Stand out of my light,” he replied. For a man who lived in a tub that was probably all he needed at that point in time.
When asked what wine he found most pleasant to drink, Diogenes replied, “That for which other people pay.” (So I actually do think like some of the great philosophers at times). But the name Diogenes is most known to the general populace as the man who would stroll through the Agora at full daylight with a torch (or, as legend sometimes has it, a lantern). When asked about it, he would answer, “I am just looking for an honest man”.
While I part company on much of Diogenes philosophy his search for an honest man resonates with me. This will likely sound harsher than intended but sometimes I feel like taking up the lantern and going out in search of one authentic Christian. Please hold the emails about how negative and judgmental I am. I know they are out there. But what breaks my heart is how many people are not living an authentic and transparent life as followers of Jesus. That is what those outside of the body of Christ see far too often. Is that a smokescreen to avoid the question of who Jesus really is? Of course it can be. But I do not want on my ledger that I was a person that someone looked at to evaluate the Christian faith and they saw nothing. Or at least not enough to find it compelling.
That is why I would choose Dave the Self-Deprecating as my title. I am not using the definition of self-deprecating that means to undervalue one’s abilities. That would be a false humility. I am talking about being able to see and admit your shortcomings. Simply being honest and real. I have to admit that I have grown to really dislike the smug little phrase “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” I know it is true but I have seen that used as a convenient excuse for not doing the right thing. Part of the acknowledgment of forgiveness and grace is realizing how much we need to forgive and extend grace. Every time I fail as a representative of Jesus I need to repent (change direction) and repair the damage.
I began my book When Bad Christians Happen to Good People with this disclaimer.
I am a hypocrite. I can be arrogant and selfish. I have been known to stretch, conceal, or slightly massage the truth. I am sometimes inconsiderate and insecure. I struggle with lust and impure thoughts. My ego often rages out of control, and I battle foolish pride. I can be lazy and foolhardy with my time. I get angry, petty, and ill-tempered. I am sarcastic and cynical.
I am a Christian.
That is real. I am a sinner saved by grace. The parts of Diongene’s philosophies that apply to me are summed up in these points.
- Living by personal example
- Exposing the falsehood of conventional thinking
- Exposing vice and conceit
That would be a decent road map for a follower of Jesus.
- Walk what you talk
- Share the hope that is in Jesus, not in this world
- Hold one another accountable in our walk
If Diogenes were walking around Garland with his lantern looking for one authentic Christian and ran into me…would he put his lamp down? Would his quest be complete if he encountered you?