The sentiment in the chorus of Toto’s Hold the Line (1978) is so rich to real life it chills us, yet we hardly ever reflect upon it. It’s a ‘groovy number’ (as they used to say generations back) but there’s a truth to it that speaks to the pattern of life and the thing we must do in response, if our lives are going to work as they were intended—that is we must, ‘Hold the line.’
I always connect this statement, ‘hold the line,’ with the famous opening in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000) in which Russell Crowe plays Roman general, Maximus Decimus Meridius. In the initial scenes of the film, Maximus is shown addressing a company of his troops immediately before battle.
As they charge, he resolutely commands them repeatedly, “Hold the line – stay with me.” And they do... in unison his company attacks the marauders and the ambush is complete.
Theologically, we have a God who’s repeatedly whispers, ‘Hold the line – stay with me,’ such is his will that we have ours. We have a God who will never force his will upon us, except that is, in judgment—and we’re judged every day by the laws of God that “life” attests to. Yet, he remains letting us have our own way in the responsive circumstances of our lives.
Holding the line is about faith. It’s about having the faith to remain. It’s about holding to God’s promises through his Word and through what he places in our hearts. “We live by faith, not by sight” –2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV). We trust him in this. As if we even have a choice—we must trust him. The other alternative (to not trust) is untenable to us. That would be to give up totally and to see no meaningfulness in life; a mere footstep from hopelessness.
The prevailing truth in all our lives is we have desires of God firmly set in our hearts—yes, desires he’s located there. He has done this for a reason, and we’re left asking, ‘How long, God... how long before you give me this thing or that?’ (See Psalm 13.)
And this is one reason he’s given us faith. We wait patiently, always believing, yet at times doubting. But doubting of itself is a godly device to shore up and build our faith—as we see his splendour (afterwards) in the purposes of waiting.
As we wait, we hold the line, and we don’t move from it. And if we do move from it, we get back in line quickly, obediently, responsively—God’s grace makes up.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.