The Lion’s Roar

I’ve been thinking about lions. 

In the first keynote lecture at the Lambeth Conference, Archbishop Justin Welby began speaking of a lion, and the screen behind him began playing a video of a majestic, maned lion.  

“Aslan!” I immediately thought.  C.S. Lewis’s leonine stand-in for Jesus, for love and compassion and sacrifice from the Narnia books, was first in my mind. 

But it was not that sort of lion. Archbishop Welby was speaking about 1 Peter 5:8 “Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” So this lion—and all of the video of lions that followed—was an emblem of sin, evil, and the devil.  

I admit in the moment, I was disappointed.

But as I’ve continued to reflect on it, I think that experience may have value. The lion can be both the symbol of sin and danger; and of faithful courage and new life.  Symbols are often multivalent. 

I invite you to continue to ponder with me. When you meet a lion, how do you discern if it is Aslan or the devil? 

12 comments on “The Lion’s Roar”

  1. A little bit of both from time to time! Glad you were able to go and not get Covid +Jennifer! Blessings ! Chaplain Tom Chapman SSJE/FSJ

  2. I think of Mufassa and Scar from the Lion King. One good, the other evil, both creatures of God. Something more to ponder. Does God create evil as a counterpoint to challenge us?

  3. As C.S. Lewis noted in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan is not safe but he is good. When we find ourselves facing a lion , we need to ask if what we are facing represents good or evil. By good, I mean, is it good by God’s standard? What does scripture say about the situation? Too often we evaluate a situation by how we feel (the lion is dangerous) and not by what God has told us. God is not safe, his Word often sounds contradictory, wrong in our worldly ears. But God is good. His Word is trustworthy and always life affirming.

  4. Joy or sadness. Aslan is joy to those open to the transformative love of God. Evil is sad and cold.

  5. What are some of the characteristics of lions? Powerful, stealthy, majestic, predatory… creatures that can be both awe inspiring and dangerous…

    I think my image of lions as good or evil depends on where I am … am I in need of a strong protector (“If God is for us, who can be against us?”or am I being stalked by sins and temptations ( “– prowling around like a lion, looking for someone to devour” )?

  6. The demonization of lions is very problematic and potentially dangerous to their future. This image of lions encourages violence against them. The current film “The Beast” is another case in point. They are an endangered species that deserves our care. We need to reshape our relationship with animals and see them as God’s creatures and we need to direct our efforts towards being the stewards of nature that God has charged us to be.

  7. The image of a lion reminds me of when Hebrew Bible writers referred to being in fear and awe of the Lord. God’s power is described as mighty, powerful, yet frightening and mysterious as well.

  8. In the young days of my sobriety when I felt I believed in a God that didn’t believe in me, I turned to Tibetan buddhism. There I found a compassion I had felt as a child and in that I began to see that God had never left me and I had never been alone.
    I also learned that the fu dogs , i.e. the lion is a symbol of strength and protector of the Buddha. The peacefulness and strength of the Buddha appealed to me. I learned how to meditate. For me, praying is talking to God; meditating is listening to the Holy Spirit. Through that path, I found my way back to the Episcopal church (I’m a cradle Episcopalian) and a faith I never believed possible for me.

  9. A lion in lion’s clothing. Life and grace as counterparts to sin and death. Two halves of a metaphysical whole. Two possibilities. Two divergent paths.
    The duality of our own flesh.
    1 Cor. 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
    We have to keep questioning- “which lion do I see reflected?” Not only in the reflection of a mirror but also in the reflection of our relationships with others.

  10. I like the perspective of the creators of the Hebrew Scriptures in Gen. ! and the Psalmist in Ps. 19, that God’s language is creation. Human language did not exist when God was creating for over 13 billon years before humans created human language. Concepts of good and evil reflect changing human concepts. God’s lion helps keep a balance in creation.

  11. Thank you! A provocative and inspiring post as usual. For me the duality inspires thinking about lions as beyond our control and with interests different from our own. Aslan reminds us that God is not tame or safe – but ultimately for us. I think it can be easy in modern society to believe that “man is the measure of all things.” So rarely do we encounter genuine wilderness (with neither paths nor cell phone reception). And then we hit something like Covid or cancer or climate change and find once again that we face lions. We then have a choice whether to trust in God, not because we understand, but because we have faith in Christ.