My granddaughter, Davy, loves Curious George; a mischievous little monkey belonging to “the man in the yellow hat” named Ted (I bet you didn’t know that was his name). Almost every time she comes to my house we watch an episode or two (or more) together. There was one particular episode in which Ted was the scoutmaster for the Little Sprouts and took them for a hike in the woods. They got lost after relying on a young assistant leader’s GPS, and so Ted told George to climb up a tall tree and look around so he could help locate where they were.
In Psalm 121:1, 2 the writer says, ” I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” The opening verses of this Song of Ascent could be understood in two ways. One interpretation is that the hills were recognized as a place of idolatry and thus “looking unto the hills” could represent a dependency on humanly created instruments of salvation and deliverance. The writer affirms that his reliance is upon the Lord. An other interpretation says that the hills represented the holy hill of Zion (Jerusalem) where the Temple was built and where God “dwelt.” Thus “looking unto the hills” in this case meant acknowledging God as The Psalmist’s ultimte source of deliverance. Both interpretations land us in the same place; in the midst of the circumstances that surround us we should not place our confidence and hope in any form of human deliverance, but only in God who is good, merciful, and sovereign. However, to do this we must “lift up our eyes” (or go climb a tree with George) and look for God above our circumstances.
Why is it that we don’t lift up our eyes and look for God? I think it is because of our pride and self-sufficiency. Perhaps we think we know what is best and conclude that we can figure things out. We are often like a child who thinks she knows how to put on her coat even though she can’t and has a fit if you try and help her. And so we like stubborn children close in upon ourselves and live in a world where things begin and end with us and with our interpretation of reality.
I’m reminded of the testimony of Chuck Colson’s conversion. Colson, a former Marine captain and Special Counsel to Richard Nixon, was convicted and sent to prison for complicity in the Watergate scandel of the 1970’s. He was given a copy of CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity and was overpowered by this quote: “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free…the vice I’m talking about is Pride…. Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-God state of mind. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people, and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see somethng that is above you.”
If I might be so bold as to make an observation about how many people have framed their joy or disappointment at the outcome of the recent election. As Christians, we can often be guilty of failing to lift up our eyes and see what is above us. We can easily demonstrate pride and self-sufficiency when we see only what we want to see; refuse to listen to an other perspective; and, most of all, fail to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and power. I am deeply concerned that many have chosen to drumroll their political views at the risk of hindering their effectiveness in sharing the gospel and/or of sacrificing their relationships within the Body of Christ.
When I had a church in Massachusetts, in a very liberal college town, I chose never to put a political sign on my lawn or sticker on my car. I stuck with this decision even when one of my elders decided to run for Congress against a very liberal (notice I don’t use the word progressive) encumbent. Though I voted for my dear brother, who lost in a landslide, I was most concerned that if I wore my political leanings on my lawn or bumper, my neighbors would pigeon-hole me politically and reject the gospel for reasons other than the gospel.
It is no secret that I am very concerned about the character and rhetoric of our President-elect. I am also very concerned about the cultural vitriol being expressed for him and against him. I understand the variety of reasons for why many evangelicals voted for Trump; not all are sexist, racist, and ethnocentrists. However, I also understand the pain of many minority Christians who are very concerned and fearful because they have experienced these -ists first hand.
I believe that when we lift up our eyes to our God and reaffirm our dependency upon him and our commitment to the gospel, we will see that our main concern as evangelicals should not be whether we won or lost politically, but how we treat the broken and suffering people around us; both in the Church and those in our culture who are truly “lost.” We also will come to see that racism and sexism are spiritual issues embedded deep in the hearts and systems of all humanity, which is why we need a savior…why I need a savior!
Let us once again hear the prophetic voice: “Look unto me and be saved all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other” (Isa 45:22).