It was 1939, just before the outbreak of what would come to be known as the Second World War. Hitler was on the move, the dominoes were starting to fall. The British government, facing what Winston Churchill would soon call “an ordeal of the most grievous kind,” needed to bolster the people’s spirits. So the British government began producing a series of propaganda posters.
One of these posters, with a bold, red background, was to be used only in the event of an invasion. That invasion never came, and so the poster was never used. But the slogan on it has lived on, and it is particularly relevant today.
The message read: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
American society today, while not facing an immediate external threat, nevertheless faces cultural decay that is a direct result of our lamentable rejection of Christian values. Our country works so hard to protect itself from the outside evil forces that could potentially threaten us that we don’t even realize that we are dying slowly from a cancer within our own borders.
Whether it’s the redefinition of marriage, continuing attacks on our religious liberty, the relentless push to undermine human dignity and the protection of the unborn, fears for what’s ahead politically, or whether it’s concerns about ISIS or Iran that are keeping us up at night, the fact is, “Keep Calm and Carry On” is an appropriate phrase at this moment in American history.
As a follower and believer in Jesus, it is important that I, and all other believers, must keep calm and carry on. I see it as our duty. If this moment in time has taught us anything, it’s that cultural power is fleeting. In the old days, calling yourself a Christian was a sure route to respectability, whatever you actually believed in your heart.
While this is still true in some quarters, we now see that there are a lot more people in our society today who look on matters of faith with a jaundiced eye, and growing numbers of people aren’t even interested in the old American ideal of religious tolerance, let alone the idea of “One Nation under God.” Yet for all these unhappy and undeniable trends, we’re still called to keep calm and carry on. Christians need to keep standing for righteousness, come what may. God still remains on His throne after all.
We already know how the story ends. God will triumph over all the evil in the world, and evil, as we currently know it, will cease to exist. Between now and then, God calls all His believers to act like Christians and that is exactly what we are supposed to do. Act like Christians.
If you have never had the opportunity to read any of the works written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I would encourage you to do so. He was a martyred hero who stood up for his beliefs in the most difficult of circumstances. Dietrich, who in his own way fought the Nazis, counseled not to withdraw, but be engaged in a fallen world. “Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.” Bonhoeffer said in his book Life Together. “At the end all of His disciples deserted Him. On the Cross He was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause He had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life, but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work.”
And what is our work as exiles in a post-Christian America?
While we must always be open to God’s specific calling in our lives, let me suggest that we all recommit ourselves to some essentials of our own “life together,” wherever our culture happens to be. The culture may be changing at warp speed, but out duty does not.
First, let’s commit ourselves anew to biblical faithfulness. That means discovering what the Word teaches and holding onto that, no matter what. If you are a person who reads the Bible regularly, that is great. You are learning what the Bible teaches us about how we should live our lives. The hard step is then living that way. It is something that we will struggle with all the days of our lives. That is Ok. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect because He knows we can’t be. The fact that we are trying to be as good as we can be is what is important. If you are not a person who reads the Bible regularly, my question would be: How do you know what you should do? The truth is at our fingertips, but it is our responsibility to discover that truth. It’s not too late. Commit yourself to reading from the Bible daily, even if it is for only a few minutes. It will change your life.
Second, let’s display the beauty of the Good News in both our words and deeds, in evangelism and in acts of compassion to our friends and our enemies. Sometimes people see being a Christian as being worthless because they see proclaimed Christians act like non-Christians. Work to live a life like Jesus did and people will see Jesus in us. We could help bring people to Jesus just by the way we live our lives. We may not be able to argue our neighbors into the kingdom, but we sure can invite them.
Third, and finally, let’s recommit to prayer. As God told the exiles in Babylon, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Pray for yourself. Pray for your family. Pray for your friends. Pray for your enemies. Pray for your community. Pray for your state. Pray for your country. Pray for your world. There is nothing God can’t do, but it is our responsibility to talk to Him. We do that through prayer. God can do anything if we ask Him to.
So here’s the plan:
- Read your Bible regularly. (Learn)
- Display what you learn in what you say and what you do. (Do)
And I might add, “Keep Calm and Carry On!”