How you die on a hill says a lot about your view of Jesus, yourself, and the world. We use this cliché all the time to explain ourselves. This is a hill to die on. That’s not a hill to die on. And so forth. The cliché assumes a hill has only one purpose: death. But there’s a deeper issue to consider. How will you die on that hill?
As with all questions, we look for our answers in Jesus. He actually did die on a hill. Before you die on that hill you’re climbing, let’s think about what Jesus was actually doing when he picked his hill to die on, contrasted with our way of dying on hills.
JESUS CLIMBED A HILL TO SUFFER ON
When we use the death hill cliché, we seldom have suffering in mind. When I pick a hill to die on, I intend to dish out pain, not take it. According to the natural way of fallen man, a hill is a place to administer suffer. I find a cause or principle worth dying for, but I don’t actually intend to suffer and die. My plan envisions the defeat of others who also climb the hill against me. I don’t have any intention of actually dying on my proverbial hill. I plan to come down victorious.
But Jesus climbed His hill determined to suffer. From eternity past, His unstoppable destiny was to die on His hill. He planned to walk up and be carried down. In fact, His main purpose in ascending His hill was to suffer; and to suffer in the most intense of ways – to suffer for us.
When you pick your hill to die on, do you intend to suffer? I don’t mean that you look up the hill and think I’ll take my licks, but in the end I’ll come out the winner. I mean do you walk up the hill on a mission to suffer for others? Or do you walk up the hill ready to dish out pain?
JESUS CLIMBED A HILL TO BE HUMBLED ON
For most of us, the hills we contemplate dying on know little about humility and a lot about pride. Along the rocky ascent, arrogant signs mark the way. The signs say this is a hill to die on because:
“THEY CAN’T TALK TO YOU THAT WAY!”
“YOU KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!”
“THEY’VE FORGOTTEN WHO YOU REALLY ARE!”
“YOU DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS!”
“THESE PEOPLE NEED TO BE PUT IN THEIR PLACE!”
With the passing of each sign along the path, our pride grows. As chants hype a schoolyard fight, our determination to take the hill burns hotter and hotter. But again, we don’t actually intend to die on that hill. The hill is a place to silence the critics, to punish the doubters, to put the oppositional in their rightful places, beneath us.
Unlike Jesus, the hills we die on are not hills of humility but of pride and self-assurance. We want to reach the top so we can shout down our demands. We want to reach the top because someone has to put an end to this; to set the record straight; to show them who’s boss. At the top of our hill, we envision a throne.
But at the top of Jesus’ hill stood a cross. He didn’t ascend His hill to be a king (that would come later). He ascended His hill to be a sacrifice; to be a servant; to be a fool; to be a mockery; to be a ransom for sinners. Jesus climbed His hill to be humbled.
Think about the hill you’re ready to die on. Is it a hill of humility? Do you plan to put others in submission on your hill, or is your hill an opportunity to humbly submit and sacrifice like Jesus?
JESUS CLIMBED A HILL TO LOVE ON
Few times (if any) have I seen someone ready to die on a hill and think, Oh what a picture of love! What a beautiful act of mercy! Oh what kindness is shining on the hill. Most of the hills I have died on, or seen other people ready to die on, were not hills of kindness, mercy, and love. They are hills where swords clash, fingers point, and friendships break. They are hills where names are called, noses are snubbed, and backs are turned. More often hills are places of leaving over loving, hating over helping.
On the hill where Jesus died, love reigns. When all others left Him alone, to find other hills to climb, Jesus loved. He climbed His hill all alone, driven by love. The ascent to His cross was about preference. He preferred His Father and His brethren over Himself. On Jesus’ hill, He fought for and not against us, in love. He preferred love.
Jesus bids His people die a death of love. He calls us to see every hill as a hill for love; glorious, gracious, redemptive love. Are you dying on a hill of love like your Lord? What do the watchers say when they look at your hill? Do they say, “Oh, what a picture of love!”
JESUS CLIMBED A HILL TO WORSHIP ON
Do you wonder why God placed so many hills in His world? Every day there’s a new hill to die on; a new controversy, a new offense, a new problem, a new policy, a new preference. Why? Couldn’t God snap His giant fingers and flatten all the hills? He certainly could.
The Bible gives the reason for these hills. God rules the best of all possible worlds–a world of hills–to give us occasions for worship. Hills are gracious gifts on which we might show the supremacy of our King. Now this is a truth easily lost in the swirling issues of our day. Viral pandemics and government overreach and downward economies and future uncertainties all exist as a part of God’s plan for worship. In an interesting way, they are evidences of His grace. But to embrace them, we must have eyes to see beneath the tossing waves. As these hills pop up – sometimes quite suddenly – we need composure and focus to worship on them.
Golgotha was the most stunning hill of worship. But not everyone saw it that way. Those who chanted “crucify” were blinded to the truth. Those who gathered around the cross saw a mere criminal dying a gruesome death. Even Jesus’ disciples scattered because they couldn’t see the glory of Jesus dying on this hill. But looking back from this side of the cross, we see it as a hill of worship. Jesus climbed a hill to worship on. In the middle of a world gone mad, Jesus worshipped on His hill. And for His people, who have eyes to see, He offers each hill as a gift of grace – an occasion for worship.
Again, look up at the hill on which you’re ready to die. When you survey that wondrous hill, do you hear worship? Does the world see on your hill a soul-satisfying, God-centered, treasure-seeking act of worship? Most importantly, does God receive worship on your hill?
Our hills need renovation. Our hills need to become more like Jesus’ hills. If we don’t change the way we die on hills, we’ll forfeit the divine purposes infused in every hill God raises. We might look back and see ourselves taking a stand, putting a foot down, and speaking our minds, yet wishing we’d had more worship, love, and humility; or even that we’d been more willing to suffer on those hills to the glory of God and the good of others.
In His world, God has given us many hills to die on, each filled with little surprises. A plethora of hills, on which we can learn to die like Jesus. Have you found a hill to die on? How will you die on that hill?