Lions and Pastors and Refugees, Oh my!

Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on

It had been a long, but rewarding week. I was leading in a pastors’ conference at Mt. Meru University near Arusha, Tanzania. Before returning to the U.S., we went on safari in the nearby Ngorongoro Highlands. We saw all the animals you would expect, including elephants, giraffes, and hippos. But, the prize of the day was gazing upon a lion contently sleeping beside the trail we drove.

As we continued our journey, I noticed how peaceful and content the other animals were. Then, it dawned on me that the lion was sleeping! I imagined how different our experience would have been if the lion had been awake, alert and prowling.

Likewise, the scriptures tell us we have an enemy. In 1 Peter 5:6-10, Peter describes our adversary as a lion, prowling about seeking someone to devour. Thus, Peter instructs us to be constantly on the alert so that we can resist him. In the midst of evil, we are reminded to humble ourselves and to cast our fears and anxieties upon the Lord, because He cares for us. In the present, there is suffering. The lion is relentless and merciless! But the lion does not have the final word. The grace of God assures us that in the midst of evil and suffering God is at work perfecting, confirming, strengthening and establishing us.

The events in Beirut and Paris over the last week remind us of the evil that seeks to kill and destroy. It is an evil we are all too familiar with, experienced in the bombing of the Murrah building, the attacks of 9-11 and senseless school shootings. The resulting fear visits us far too often. We are vulnerable to those who are willing to give their lives to take the lives of others. And it seems that more and more people are willing to prowl about like lions these days.

So how shall we live in the midst of the lions? What shall we do with our fears? Healthy fear makes us vigilant and discerning, but unhealthy fear paralyzes and makes us paranoid. One option is to lock our doors, turn out the lights and hide. Insulation may offer temporary respite from the dangers of evil, but ultimately concedes victory to the lions. A second option is to assume that everyone is a lion and to treat anyone outside of our community as a lion. This paranoia leads to isolation, resulting in prejudice and discrimination. Evil wins again as we are deprived of new neighbors and the opportunity for greater life experience. A third option is to practice and embrace the teachings of Scripture. We must learn to be alert and aware of our surroundings and the lions in our midst. We must resist the lions by partnering and cooperating with those who protect us and work for justice. In addition, scripture invites us to acknowledge and confess our fears to God who loves and cares for us. Freed from the fear of evil, we can endure and redeem the evil around us. Certainly, redemption requires justice for those who practice evil. But redemption also invites us to be strengthened and matured through the suffering. Redemption means that we can not only find healing in our pain, but we can also become healers in the lives of others.

There are numerous kinds of lions prowling about seeking to devour. Let us be alert and resist, but not paralyzed and paranoid. In the face of evil, let us be agents of redemption, seeking to love and nurture the wounded and refugee among us, casting our fears upon the Lord because He cares for us.