In 1988, the second single of Bruce Hornsby & The Range from their sophomore album hit #35 on the charts, a rousing and catchy song called “Look Out Any Window.” The song was unconventional as a single not because it was a bad song–it’s an excellent song in my personal opinion–but rather because the song itself dealt with a subject that does not attract too much attention, namely the destruction of the environment for the purposes of profit. If one wants a hit on the radio, there are a few subjects one can reliably sing about, like how awesome of a person one is, what kind of dance moves one can teach others, or if all else fails one can sing a love song assuming one has something to sing about. One does not tend to sing about the environment, for although there are a great many people who care about it, there are few people who can sing about it in such a way that is musically pleasant, although at least a few have done well, like Bruce Hornsby and the Range as well as country singer John Anderson with his moving “Seminole Wind.”
Yet what is most striking about the song in terms of its larger ramifications is the title of the song itself. Bruce Hornsby, who was no stranger to social and political crusading, urged listeners to look out any window to see what is going on. Indeed, a great deal of political crusading comes about by looking out of our window to see what’s going on, motivating us to speak out against the sins we see around us. There is no shortage of sins, whether they involve private conduct or public corruption, that can motivate us to feelings of righteous indignation. Certainly our society, and even more those societies around us, provide plenty for us to feel self-righteous about, regardless of our own particular political worldview. No matter whether we style ourselves Progressive or Regressive, conservative or liberal, religious or secular, or whether we do not style ourselves anything at all, there is clearly a lot of evil that needs to be cleaned up, pollution of various kinds  in our midst that is plainly visible for all to see, if they only would turn their eyes to it and rise above their own private concerns. Often this feeling of righteous indignation leads us to be deeply uncharitable towards others, in that we assume that they are sinning presumptuously without knowing their heart, or that they simply do not care about others, which may or may not be true, and places us as the judge, jury, and executioner of those around us.
And this causes a subtle problem that we often do not realize. It is a little known matter, but one of some importance, that the Bible consistently condemns looking out of our window . The Bible never states why this is the case, but on at least three separate occasions looking out of a window is connected to serious disaster, the only three times that particular action is specifically commented on, all of them in the historical prophets. In this section of the Bible, detail is tellingly important, and so clearly something is being meant even if it is not precisely clear what the problem is. In the first example, Sisera’s mother looks out of her window and imagines the booty in treasure and slave girls that her son will bring back after defeating the Israelites. Instead, a Kenite wife named Jael drives a tent peg through his skull after he flees from defeat against the Israelites led by Deborah and Barak. In the second example Michal, daughter of King Saul, looks out her window with a feeling of disgust at the undignified dancing of David when the Ark of the Covenant is brought into Jerusalem, and her snide and sarcastic remarks to him about it lead him to cease visiting her, leaving her barren and without any children or affection for the rest of her life. In the third example, Jezebel looks out of her window with contempt at Jehu after he has come to Jezreel to finish eliminating the House of Ahab from existence, and she is soon defenestrated by her servants . In all cases, as we have seen, looking out of the window is associated with an uncharitable feeling towards others and leads to inevitable disaster. Why is this the case?
Although the Bible does not explicitly say, we have enough experience with our own feelings when people look out of their window with uncharitable feelings in their hearts against us and self-righteous indignation at our deeds to know a big part of the problem with this sort of behavior. When someone self-righteously condemns us for some sort of sin, whether that is a sin we are committing or not, it hardly matters, our first response is to point back something that they are not doing up to the standards of God and man, and something can always be found for all of us that leaves us falling short of a proper standard. This tends to lead predictably to bad feelings and to political and social divisions and hostility , to swinging pendulums and instability and unrest. To be sure, it is obvious to everyone that there is a great deal of evil to be seen in the air around us, but that is not really the task of humanity. Our quest, and it is sufficiently difficult, is to wrestle with the darkness inside of us. It is not our job to work out the salvation of our friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, countrymen, enemies, strangers, but rather for us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This task is sufficiently difficult for all of us that if we are doing a good enough job at wrestling with the evil and corruption and bent and immoral ways within us we will have little room to point fingers at anyone else, but rather will be motivated to have compassion on those whose struggling we see around us.
The fact of the matter is that we should not be looking out of windows at all when it comes to sin. We should be looking in the mirror instead, as there is enough for us to see and to work on for a lifetime. Yet it is not our nature to want to look in the mirror. Why would we want to? Most of us, myself certainly included, are not particularly pleasant to look at in the mirror. When we look in the mirror we see our flaws, our blemishes, and our imperfections. We may feel a sense of shame, of guilt, or humiliation in what we see, and we may see the scars and lasting effects of our sins against others and others’ sins against us. When we look out of our windows, we feel a sense of anger at what others have done. We do not see their own anguished struggle, their own fears and longings, the context of their own broken lives. If we saw that, we would be motivated by compassion, and we might see them as beings not unlike ourselves, and worthy of the same gentleness and patience that we would want others to see us with. But we do not see that when we look out of any window at all. The way this world will be made more beautiful is by the redemption of lives that will bud and blossom from the love of God pouring out of their own hearts and minds and lives. When that happens to a greater degree, there will be a great deal more pleasant to see when we look out any window. Until then, we have much in our own lives to attend to, and that ought to keep us busy enough that we have no time to be busybodies in the lives of those around us. We all have enough work to do in our own lives for several lifetimes, after all.
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