One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies is the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly and Matthew MacFadyen. In the apex of the movie, Lizzie Bennett stands atop the cliffs of the Peak District where she has been traveling with her aunt and uncle. As she considers the recent events of Mr. Darcy’s confusing and vexing confessions of love and family betrayal, she ponders life from this great perspective. It’s one of the most iconic cinematic scenes for Austen fans:
For our wedding anniversary last year, my husband let me arrange a dream trip to the countryside of Ireland and England. Our first stop in England was the Peak District at some of the film’s locations, including a bike ride along the ridge of some of the peaks.
One thing that occurred to me as I looked out across the green hills beginning to turn gold with early fall, was the majesty of God’s creation. He sees it all, even when we don’t. The perspective from the top of a cliff is enlightening to one’s perspective, but in today’s readings, it did little to broaden the minds of the prideful Nazareans.
Today’s readings remind me to be careful about being held in high esteem. Paul tells the Corinthians in his first letter (1 Cor 2:1-5) that he approached them in “weakness” and “trembling”, being ever so careful so as not to have them praise his wisdom, but instead the power of God. Then in Luke (4:16-30) Jesus returns to Nazareth—his home town—where he stands to read a scroll —which is handed to him—from Isaiah, which prophesies the Savior. At first, the people are impressed and praise his wisdom; the very thing Paul knowingly wanted to avoid. Why? Because when Jesus goes to speak the truth to them about their lack of faith, they become enraged and march “the son of Joseph” to the “brow of the hill” to “hurl him down headlong.” Paul no doubt realizes he needs to imitate Jesus in his prudence over the reactions of the fickle crowds.
I can’t imagine being so angry at my neighbor’s kid that I would throw him off a cliff, especially because he insulted my pride, but with today’s current headlines, I could easily believe the “angry mob” is capable of anything. We are seeing the same kind of spiritual warfare playing out in angry, violent people looking where to set blame. No doubt many of these Nazareans looked back at how they tried to throw God off a cliff once they realized Jesus was the Divine Savior he said he was. Hopefully they regreted their own actions, but the wounds of our souls or obstinate reliance on our own faulty logic can cause us to fall prey to the divisiveness of the enemy’s plan. Many people think they are really being righteous and standing up for something that is good. I wonder if we all should take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to convict of us of the truth before we go angrily partaking in the mob mentality, even when it seems just from the outside.
We can stand on the brow of the hill and try to see the world through the eyes of God, His glory in creation, sadly dappled with hurting souls who are under spiritual attack. We can conversely stand on the brow of the hill with the perspective of the blamer, looking who next to throw off head-first in anger because we are offended at the thought that we could be possibly be wrong. Do I join in the achey moaning and complaining of humans who are contributing to the negativity, or do I reach out to the lonely souls who are losing hope? Is anger helping to heal anything? Does God move souls to destroy others or are these actions coming from wounds and hurt and confusion? Blame is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Which perspective will I take?
Today I will look to myself and examine my own sense of pride and vanity. Where am I looking for validation? Is it through the eyes of those who don’t really know me? Or is it through the eyes of my most merciful God who knows my deepest self? Is my job to win favor with the angry mob or to love those Christ puts before me, in hopes that they too will come to know his love for them?