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In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.
When my daughter was four years old, she said that when she grew up she wanted to be a “blue doctor.” My second child tells me that he wishes to be a priest. My youngest son, who is now four, has been telling me for some time now that when he grows up he wants to be a lion.
I am not sure from where the desire to be a lion arose, but it probably has something to do with my repeated readings of The Chronicles of Narnia. The lion in those stories is one who loves and one who growls. His enemies fear him, and even his friends do not approach him without caution because they realize that he is not a tame lion. But they love him deeply and he loves them more in return. This is what my son aspires to. He is currently working on his roar and has it down fairly well.
The roar of the Lion of Judah is given substantially less attention by the more mature section of Christendom. A quick trip to any Christian bookstore that sells artwork will reveal images of the smiling Jesus, the suffering Jesus, the baby Jesus, the “I love children” Jesus, the Sacred Heart Jesus, the “I carried you when you were tired and left my footprints” Jesus, but few or none of the roaring Jesus. Although I think my son would like it, images of Jesus taking a whip to the money-changers in the temple just aren’t big sellers with adults in our society.
Dorothy Sayers wrote about those who turn the almighty Christ into someone who is weak and dull and boring:
The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore; on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. (from Creed or Chaos?)
This is what comes from emphasizing that Jesus is our friend and making him our buddy or pal. While the Scriptures say that he is our friend, one doesn’t find this emphasized by the church fathers. Anthony of Egypt, Athanasius, Augustine of Hippo—just to start with the As—wrote very little about Jesus as our friend in comparison to the modern plethora of writings and songs emphasizing this aspect of our Lord’s relationship to us. The Fathers treat him with more majesty and reverence and awe.
Yes, God loves us deeply. I love my son deeply too, but I am his father, not his playmate. To him I aspire to be a source of unconditional love, a pillar of responsibility, a comforter, a protector, and a teacher. In a way, my son and I aspire to the same thing. Just as I seek to be a loving father after the model of our heavenly Father, my son, in his own way, seeks to be Christ-like by being a lion. By the grace of God, I hope we both attain that to which we aspire. The Church could use more lions.