The competition for the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role is over. I have never seen a more remarkable performance than Meryl Streep gives in The Iron Lady, her portrait of Lady Margaret Thatcher. The movie opened today; if you’re interested in 20th century history or just in great acting, go see it.
The movie depicts a day in the life of Lady Thatcher as she is today, with flashbacks to pivotal moments in her career. I knew that she is the daughter of a grocer and remembered her fortitude in dealing with trade unions and the Falklands War, but I had forgotten the degree to which historians credited her for the fall of the Soviet Union and the triumph of conservative principles across the Western world.
Three statements made by Prime Minister Thatcher in the film were especially memorable for me. The first illustrates the importance of service. Early in the movie, an admirer thanks the elderly Lady Thatcher for her courageous leadership. She replies, “It used to be about trying to do something. Now it’s about trying to be someone.” Think about that assertion with regard to politics and leadership today. James 2:20 comes to mind: “Faith without deeds is useless.”
The second quote demonstrates the significance of conviction. In dealing with the Falklands crisis, she tells her waffling advisers, “We stand on our principles or we do not stand.” Solomon would agree: “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). The wise king added, “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).
The third quote shows the value of courageous faith. Toward the end of her career as prime minister, Lady Thatcher tells her husband, “If we make the hard decisions, they will hate us today but they will thank us for generations.” When we do the right thing because we love God and those we serve, we can trust the Lord to redeem difficult times for his glory and our good.
The Apostle John assured us, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:16-18). Love God and neighbor, and your Father will use your life for significance you cannot measure.
Margaret Thatcher is currently in good health, but plans have already been made for her memorial service. She will be the first prime minister since Winston Churchill to receive a State funeral, the ultimate accolade in England. Service, conviction, and courageous faith—her life and legacy illustrate my favorite definition of greatness: Great people plant trees they’ll never sit under.