I sought to hear the voice of God,
And climbed the topmost steeple.
But God declared: “Go down again,
I dwell among the people.”
We all have an innate nature to desire someone we can look to as being a good example to follow. Even those who are leaders in our society also have that craving for connection to something higher than themselves. Many times, that quest for finding significance leads to seeking out other humans to fill that role. Even back during the days of Moses, many of the newly freed Hebrews could not be satisfied with worship of the unseen God, but coaxed Aaron into agreeing with them, while Moses was upon the mountain, to fashion a golden calf to worship. We humans want to have proof before our eyes and something we can touch. “And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands” (Acts 7:41).
I remember few times in my life when I have entered into someone’s home or business and have seen an idol placed in a position of prominence. Nowadays, most folks do not have such visible and tangible idols made of the inanimate, but often have living, human ones instead. An example from popular media would be the search that goes forth on the television series American Idol. More commonly although, people search for someone in their everyday surroundings who they put up on a pedestal and expect to be able to follow only to have the inevitable disappointment that will always occur when any other human is ever idolized. The disappointed person, instead of learning from the experience, usually proceeds to find another person then to put up on their pedestal and the cycle repeats itself in our culture indefinitely.
A few years ago, I visited the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was told by a historian there that the city in its beginning had no person’s name on any city street sign or building because the Quakers recognized that no human should elevated above another. If all of society would recognize that truth again, think of all of the problems that it would solve. This does not mean that we should not have mentors in our lives or have parents and those in authority over us that we should respect, however. There is a difference between learning proper respect for others and idolizing others. We have to recognize that we cannot expect perfection out of any person any more than what we can do ourselves. We all want someone to give us a break, so that should result in us giving others a break, too. That is what grace is all about; if you want grace, you have to give grace.
Many churches lose pastors, communities lose doctors, and many organizations lose leaders because of this same cycle repeating itself as people look to other people for something that no person can do — be God to them. What is able to stop the merry-go-round pedestal is the recognition that we should put no one on a pedestal and throw the pedestal away. It is just a present day way of having idols in our lives that might be a little different than in Old Testament days, but it is just as wrong now as it was then. That innate desire to have someone to idolize and place on a pedestal should be replaced with looking up to the only person who was ever perfect –Jesus Christ. Compare your life only to His and you cannot help then but to give grace, mercy, compassion, understanding, and lose the critical spirit, self-righteousness, and false expectations of others.