This week we look at the challenge to live more radically, focusing upon Aslan/Christ as ‘not a tame lion’.
Discuss what injustices have made you angry this week, or angry for a long-time. We’re thinking of local and global happenings, rather than a moan-fest about your job, or your family!
45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.
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The Lion’s World pages 57-60
The full chapter can be downloaded from Seed Resources
With Bishop Alan Wilson (Bishop of Buckingham: historian, theologian)
Often the mere question “What would Jesus do?” conjures up images of a nice young man in a bathrobe, surrounded by cheerful followers, being nice to toddlers and fluffy animals. In fact much of the gospel story shows Jesus’ conflict with the professional guardians of the Sacred.
The Messiah arrives amidst popular acclamation in the Temple and sets to work with a whip of cords. Like refiner’s fire, judgment begins with the household of God.
This may not be our idea of what Jesus should do, but it’s what he actually did.
Like Jesus, Aslan is not a tame lion. He does anger, wild elation, loud roaring that he actually enjoys, romping Dionysian parties, enjoying the best that life has to offer, without being reduced by his enjoyment of it or beholden to it.
Like Jesus, Aslan is radically aware of the potential corruption of the very best things, as well as everyday habits, good intentions, and twisted motives. His followers are called to follow him in living life truthfully and to the full, undeceived by appearances.
The Bible tells us to be angry, but not sin (Ephesians 4:26). Being angry is not, then, in itself sin. As with all strong feelings the sin isn’t having them, but letting them get under the skin, fester and become habits, so that they end up shaping our lives.
Part of being fully alive, in Narnia or anywhere else, is being in the driving seat of our own lives, not allowing our passions to hijack us. Our anger should put us in touch with what really matters to us and thus bring us closer to the truth. It can’t do this if we simply close it off as unacceptable.
Most of us, however, rightly hate argument or any kind of unpleasantness. Even if we know goods are faulty, many of us are reluctant to take them back to a shop. Our fear about anger gets dignified as noble stoicism, and can even beget a kind of false humility that tells us it would be egotistical to complain.
There are good and less good ways to act on our anger, but doing nothing and canning it is usually bad. In the long run bottled-up anger just comes out anyway as hot rage or cold cruelty or depression.
Back in the good old 1950s John Christie, the serial killer, got away with strangling women all over London largely because he was such a mild, nice man that nobody could imagine him being anything else.
The trouble is that bourgeois Anglo-Saxon culture, including Church life, is profoundly rooted in the cult of Nice. Niceness isn’t concerned with the deep truth of anything. It judges people almost entirely by their potential to cause embarrassment. This attitude keeps us comfy but kills the prophets.
So what role does the cult of Nice play in our personal, family and Church life, and are we prepared to contemplate more honest and emotionally engaged ways of life? If not, why not?
Available in audio format.
1) If we look at some of the dictionary definitions of these words:
- Safe (free from hurt, injury, danger, or risk)
- Tame (domesticated, tractable, docile, or submissive, lacking in excitement; dull; insipid)
Consider whether the Christian life, or Jesus himself, was ever promised to fit these definitions.
2) Think about what role ‘the cult of Nice’ plays in our personal, family and Church life – what does that look like?
3) What would a more honest and emotionally engaged way of life look like? What is stopping you engaging in this?
4) Look at Luke 19: 45-46, and Mark 3:5 as examples of when Jesus displayed anger. What were the circumstances, and what can we learn from what he did?
5) Rowan Williams writes (p62) that “Lewis believed passionately in the objective truth of revelation, but he also knew that at times that truth is most clearly witnessed to by those who cling to it without hope of reward or vindication. Once again, we are in risky territory; but no one could say that we were being offered a bland or consoling version of faith.” How does that sentence make you feel?
Hot) What other Bible verses would you bring into the debate about ‘anger’, about whether it’s appropriate, and what form it should take? What small changes might you need to make in your behaviour?
Cold) Draw, create a collage or mind-map, of things going on in the world (globally/locally) that make you angry. Pray over them.
To finish with: “Lord, we pray that we would be prepared to take risky steps in pursuit of faith, and that we would seek to turn our anger into something positive.”
1) Many depictions of faith would come under the ‘fluffy’ heading. Take time to notice what is around you, photograph it, and consider adding to the worship resources on: http://www.seedresources.com/.
2) Consider whether there is something practical that you can do to address one of the issues that makes you angry.
3) Look up http://www.safe.org.uk/index.cfm, an organisation supported by churches “to help isolated and disadvantaged people rethink their lives and find new ways forward”. Consider whether you can support practically or in prayer.