In the film Darkest Hour, there is a scene in which Winston Churchill, newly named Prime Minister, meets with his war cabinet. It is May 1940. The Nazis are racing across France with devastating speed and threatening to annihilate the entire British army trapped at Dunkirk. Churchill asks his military leaders and strategists what their plan is.
And he is met with silence.
There was no plan. Not even a bad plan. It was staggering. This was their area of expertise. They had devoted their careers to studying military planning, strategy, and execution and at this critical moment, they had nothing to offer.
One of the cabinet ministers then reiterated that he favored opening talks for a negotiated peace with Germany. Compromise and surrender.
We too, are in a war. I wondered how often we, how often I, come to the table with no plan whatsoever. We’ve studied and small-grouped for years. We’ve practiced and planned but
When jobs are lost
When devastating diagnoses are handed down
When addiction ensnares
When young lives are senselessly lost
When middle-aged people are overcome with despair
When older people pass their days in loneliness
When children grow up much too quickly
When so many give sex in hopes of securing love
When others chose the illicit or the virtual over purity and genuine intimacy
When relationships dissolve
When prejudice and rancor are the norm
we sit in sheepish silence. Or someone suggests compromise or even surrender.
Our faith is not abstract theory. Or at least it shouldn’t be. It is true that our faith does not insulate us from difficult situations. In fact, I know believers who have experienced each of those things on that list. But to be sure, our faith should move us to act.
In Matthew 25, Jesus gives us a call to action.
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-40
While these verses are often cited to encourage us to take care of the poor and hungry – and we should – notice verse 40. Inasmuch as you did it to My brethren. Other believers. Hungry, thirsty, in need, cut off, alone …
How was the army at Dunkirk rescued? By their countrymen, by ordinary people who were willing to risk life and livelihood to do it. They answered Churchill’s call to action. The German bullets were real. The Channel was cold and unforgiving. Success and safety were not guaranteed.
But the cost of NOT acting was far greater.
Likewise, it is no easy thing to invest in the lives of others, to share with them, to suffer with them. We risk being misunderstood and maligned. We might be underappreciated and taken advantage of.
But we might pull off a daring rescue with eternal significance.