We were camping on the veldt in Tsavo National Park in Kenya. Our long line of tents was set up facing an elephant watering hole about fifty yards away. As we turned in for the night, a sentry armed with a rifle paced between the campfires burning to ward off the animals.
After 11:00 PM a solitary male lion approached our camp on his way to the waterhole. We were an unexpected barrier blocking his access; the fires and the sight of the guard all very intimidating. So the big cat began to roar as he skulked along the rear line of our tents, first one direction and then the other, back and forth. I fell asleep to the distinctive lullaby of a snarling lion, the king of beasts expressing his violent displeasure.
It called to mind 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” And it struck me, lions don’t roar when they’re hunting. They roar when they’re angry or threatened. When Peter warns us to be alert because Satan is like a roaring lion, he’s also tipping us off: all that racket means our adversary is angry and frustrated. It doesn’t sound like a successful hunt, does it?
That’s why we in the Kingdom continue to hear the same old snarling cliches and tired slogans recycled from Hell again and again. Don’t the enemies of Christ ever come up with new material? If it doesn’t work the first time, then roar louder the next time, right?
Just this morning, a friend asked how to answer an insult hurled endlessly in print and conversation. How can Christians be offended by Islamist terrorism when we did the very same things during the Crusades? I just smiled. In the first place, the Crusades happened a thousand years ago. How is it that people who cannot remember 9/11/01 have such vivid memories of 1095 AD? But more importantly, the Crusades were launched as a defensive measure to resist the unrelenting slaughter and kidnapping of peaceful pilgrims hoping to visit the Holy Land and walk where Jesus walked. The motivation was never about claiming new nations for Christ or forcing anyone to convert. The Crusaders were always a last ditch response to foreign aggression. Quite notably, the Christian pilgrims were not being killed and kidnapped by offended atheists. (For details, read God’s Battalions, Rodney Stark’s highly acclaimed defense of the Crusades.)
Earlier this week, I found myself offering encouragement to a frustrated professional who came by my office. He had fallen away from another church years ago and was attempting to explain his rationale for rejecting the faith. Along the way he assured me that all religions are the same: “Islamic extremists kill people but so do all those Christians who bomb abortion clinics.” I didn’t lose my smile, but I did politely interrupt.
“Which evangelical abortion clinic bombers do you have in mind?” I asked. Abortion clinic bombings are so incredibly rare that death by falling into vats of chocolate must surely be more numerous. And just because we know a bomber hated abortionists, doesn’t mean we know he loved Jesus. In fact, killing innocent people is compelling evidence he didn’t know Jesus Christ and was simply deranged or just mean. That’s a far cry from the armies of suicide bombers and masked executioners who carry the Koran and shout “Allahu Akbar,” as they wage bloody war on civilians. The man in my office sighed as he conceded the point.
With all due respect to the sincerity of Islamic State killers and Boko Haram rapists, you don’t have to be a sociologist to recognize those kinds of activities are ghastly and unthinkable to followers of Jesus Christ! There are no Christian majority nations where angry mobs stand in the streets chanting for death to any other nation or even another religious group. Nothing could be more unlike Jesus.
Angry, snarling pagans are still trying to toss Jesus into the lions’ den. But their arguments are toothless. Their facts are just fake news. And even a spoonful of Truth seasoned with gentleness and respect can often shut the mouths of the lions- or at least enlighten the spectators watching from the gallery. Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel, and don’t let mindless slogans and bogus history lessons lie there unanswered. But speak the truth in love, with all gentleness and respect.
And lift up the Cross!