21 for freedom: why we need God to be a lion

Yesterday was the 21st of the month. And therefore our monthly special focus on trafficking and modern day slavery. It was also a day when ‘the Lion’ came up as our element of God’s character in focus.

(c) Liz Baddaley @ the Sanctuary

We looked of course at the description of Jesus as a lion (as well as a lamb) and at the associations with the tribe of Judah.

And we also looked again at C.S.Lewis’ infinitely helpful symbolic representation of God in Aslan.

It’s always a joy to revisit some of the clips from the recent Chronicles of Narnia films and allow them to speak deeply to elements of our faith.

Yesterday we watched two.

The first is one we use often to encourage people to think bigger about calling – Wunderkind.

But the second was a less familiar one from Prince Caspian where Lucy meets Aslan in the midst of a very dangerous situation. Take a look here.

Lucy is being pursued by a soldier who is a very real threat. But when Aslan shows up to rescue her, the immediate feeling is not relief but fear. Lucy is off her horse; exposed and vulnerable on the ground gazing up at a terrifying lion – he has his teeth bared and he is ready to pounce.

After the event Lucy tellingly says ‘I knew it was you’ but we feel that she means a silent ‘really’ at the end of this statement. There must have been questions and doubts in her mind before this point, because when someone we know and love turns up we don’t greet them in this way.

Clearly there was a moment when he was about to leap where she wasn’t one hundred per cent sure that the danger she had been facing from her pursuer hadn’t increased into something even greater.

But of course though Aslan leaps directly towards Lucy, he is not pouncing on her – he is leaping over her to apprehend her pursuer.

His rage and ferocity is protective love in action…

But notice also that he does only what is necessary to protect Lucy though. Mercy is extended to the soldier who runs away with his life spared…

And we are left with Lucy and a new revelation of the softer side of the lion – who is only ever angry out of love and has no qualms allowing Lucy to play and cuddle him.

It’s a profound metaphor and one we watched in the context of praying for real life stories from Qatar where principally Indian and Nepalese men are being held in slave labour conditions in order to prepare for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

Men who are young and in their prime are being lured out of poverty at home with the promise of providing for their families only to find they are trapped in a nightmare situation with confiscated papers. And forced to working 12 hour day of extreme manual labour in 40 degree heat.

Many are dropping dead from heart attacks and it’s estimated that if the current situation is unchecked there will be 62 workers’ lives lost for every game played in the Qatar World Cup tournament.

We need God to be a lion in situations like this.

We need to pray to a God whose protective, parental love makes him ferociously angry. We don’t want him to gently and passively respond. We want him to come in with fierce love and power on behalf of the trafficked, the enslaved and the exploited.

We want to see his power and might convict traffickers of their sin and send them running away frightened… remembering too his mercy towards them and the fact he wants to be the same protective lion to ultimately redeem and rescue them from the darkness they are entrenched in too.

In the West we are mostly uncomfortable with imagining God as being angry or standing in judgement. And often this comes from a good place of having seen this view taken to damaging extremes, or being misapplied to his view of us as his children.

But we must be careful not to go to another extreme – none of us would want to see any person fail to get angry at child abuse. Let alone God. His fathering of that child would be dangerously compromised if he wasn’t fiercely roaring – warning the abuser off with a clear threat of consequences.

It’s a powerful exercise to imagine a trafficker, slave master or extremist militant into this story from Narnia. And to imagine God’s passion for the person in Lucy’s shoes – pursued, terrified and in very real danger.

We wanted to share this image of God in this context because we think it’s going to help us so much as we continue to pray about many issues, but especially trafficking and modern slavery. In Qatar. And globally. And we think it might help you too.

Let’s not pull the teeth out of our image of who God is.

As Lewis says elsewhere ‘He’s not tame… he’s a lion. But he’s good.’ Let’s be thankful that he’s powerful and a fierce and effective opponent to injustice and abuse. And let’s be even more thankful that he is all of the these things – always – because he is love.

We have seen amazing answers to prayer around this issue – raids, rescues, changes to legislation, raising awareness, new ministries of restoration established – and they have all happened for the same reason. God loves the trafficked and the enslaved and he is jealous for their rescue. Let’s take heart from how seriously he takes this and keep praying and working with him inspired by the same fierce love.

Two final things to help you respond in prayer for Qatar and so many other nations and situations caught up with this issue:

Lou Fellingham’s brilliantly helpful song of intercession for God to move in power and change everything – ‘Roar’

And ours to carry on your intercession and commitment to this issue more specifically – ‘What Price?’

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