In 1960 the legend of Arthur of Camelot found its way to Broadway in Lerner and Loewe’s stage production, Camelot. The second act contains a curious song entitled, “What Do Simple Folk Do?”. Burdened by sin and wearied by life, Arthur and Guenevere wonder what commoners do to alleviate such pressure. Three times Queen Guenevere asks Arthur, “What do the simple folk do” to “escape when they’re blue” or “to pluck up the heart and get through.” “They must have a system or two,” she contends. Arthur answers with simple remedies, they “whistle,” they “sing,” and they “dance.”/1
To Arthur and Guenevere, the simple folk could have easily been another species. These are people “not noblessly obliged.” They must have some “ancient native custom” for they know something the “throne folk don’t know.”
As I heard this song for the first time the other day, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What do Christian folk do?” While we often fail to see it through, Christians are to be different. (Perhaps as different as the common folk seemed to the throne folk in Camelot.) Our lives are to be lived with such joy amid great hardship that God assumes people will ask us “for a reason for the hope” that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).
When people of the world are suffering, do they ever ask, “What do Christian folk do?” Do they ever ponder what our secret is? If they don’t, it might be that we blend in too much to be distinctive. Maybe our hope does not present itself to others as unique. Perhaps our minds are focused on things of this world, and our lives reflect that focus.
If the New Testament is our guide and Christ is our perfect example, what does that look like? How did God intend for us to get through the difficulties of life that all people experience? Just as Arthur offered three simple explanations for the common folk, I offer you three simple explanations for the Christian folk.
We are to love with an all-encompassing, self-sacrificial love that binds us together with chords that cannot be broken. Jesus demonstrated the depth and breadth of such a love, by offering himself upon the cross for all people. In this way, God has taught us to love one another (John 13:34; 1 Thessalonians 4:9). We love God, so we follow where he leads and we keep his commandments (John 14:15, 23). We love others, so we speak and act to help others see the Savior. This love comes from God (1 John 4:7), and we love “because he first loved us” (1 John 4:18).
They Live by Faith
We do not take leaps of faith, nor do we leave reason behind when we follow Christ. Biblical faith must be informed (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:1). When we walk by faith, we have God’s character, his promises, and his word lighting every step we take. Yet we go where we have not been before. Each day presents new challenges. We must walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). If we know our God and know that he rewards those who seek him, we can draw near to him in faith (Hebrews 11:6).
They Look Above
They say you can tell a tourist from a native New Yorker by where their eyes are. Tourists walking the streets of “The City that Never Sleeps” constantly keep their eyes open and up. They often wander and sometimes stop to stare at the wonder before them. As Christians, we should be recognized by our constant looking above (Colossians 3:2). We should be longing for home. If I may step on toes, we are too attentive to the political machinations around us, too troubled with temporal solutions to problems that are only solved with eternal resolutions, and too anxious about our earthly life, when we should have died to those concerns (Colossians 3:3), Christ should be our life (Colossians 3:4), and our citizenship should be in heaven (Philippians 3:20).
What do Christian folk do? We await a Savior from heaven. We yearn to be set free from this body. We long for that moment when our mortality is swallowed up by life. In the interim we do not lose heart, we are renewed inwardly day by day, by loving, living by faith, and looking to things which are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:4).
1/ Alan Jay Lerner, “What Do Simple Folk Do?” Camelot, Columbia Broadway, 1960.