Darkest Hour and The Perpetual Battle
This marvellous movie covers just a few days in May 1940.They were a dark period in WWII, in which the threat from Hitler was intense, and there seemed every possibility that Germany was about to invade England.
With a War Cabinet determined to seek a form of peaceful solution, appealing to Mussolini for help, Winston Churchill seems a lone voice calling for resistance and fight to the end.
Brilliantly played in this movie, by Gary Oldman, the plot focuses on the belligerence and dogged resolve of Churchill, faithfully supported by his dear Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas).
“Never give in…” “Never surrender…” Fight to the end….” For some, the arrogant myopia, and single-minded determination, of an egotist. Maybe. However, without a doubt, the war would have been lost without his rallying cries and unstinting resolve. His rhetoric was powerful:
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
The author of Darkest Hour, Anthony McCarten, has Lord Halifax saying of Churchill, “He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle”.
Churchill’s rallying oratory mobilised an active belief that victory was essential, and possible, even against all the odds. He promised nothing less in his famous House of Commons Speech, on 13 May 1940, as the new Prime Minister of England. He said: “I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.””
The themes of “cost” and “sacrifice” are very much part of the biblical vocabulary for the Christian life. The Bible also consistently speaks of the future reward promised to those who enlist in God’s army. We need to hear again the rallying rhetoric of the Bible, which will put steel in our backbone, and encourage us to continue faithfully to the end. Along the way, we also need the help of those who have gone before us, who have endured in the heat of battle, and who have remained faithful: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7).
In short: 21st Century Christians need to recapture “war” language to describe true discipleship. There was regular comment made throughout the Second World War: “Don’t you know there’s a war on?” We need to remember this comment in the spiritual realm too. In fact, the Salvation Army still produces a weekly magazine entitled The War Cry. Fighting for hearts and souls.
As J.C. Ryle put it: “With a corrupt heart, a busy Devil, and an ensnaring world, (we) must either fight or be lost”. The shape of that battle is with Sin, with Self, and with Satan.
Here at Christ Church, Virginia Water (http://www.cc-vw.org/), we begin a new sermon series in 1 Peter. We will consider what it means to be aliens, exiles, strangers, saints and soldiers, disbursed in this world. Like the Christians in Asia Minor, to whom Peter writes, we live in enemy-occupied territory. We may also sense the storm clouds on the horizon, as they did.
How then should we conduct ourselves during this battle? Several answers are given in this letter, but most telling is the compelling way Peter expects us to live our lives:
“In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3.15)
We should remember our commanding officer, King Jesus, and serve him unflinchingly. We should give an account of ourselves, and a reason for the thing that gives us true hope, even in the darkest hour. We Christians should be known – not for our aggression and hostility – but for our gentleness and respect.
I do encourage you to go and see Darkest Hour; it will steady your resolve in the face of opposition. But most of all, as believers, remember that King Jesus is on the throne and, if we are His, we are on the winning side! Never give in, never surrender, and fight to the end.
- The Perpetual Battle, Simon Vibert, Published by Christian Focus, March 2018