One of my favorite Bible passages is 1 Peter 5:8 which has the words, “Like a roaring lion your adversary, the devil, prowls around looking for someone to devour.”
One of the most powerful images of the spiritual life is that of a spiritual battle. As Christians, we’re called to make a stand for Jesus Christ, and our daily lives are the battleground. An old hymn says: “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before! Christ, the royal master, leads against the foe, forward into battle, see his banner go!”
The last place I would apply these hymn-words are in actual physical warfare with other children of God. Those words are intended to point to our spiritual battle against the evil one, seeking to devour us.
The words that come both before and after that Bible verse about the roaring lion are super-important. Before the roaring lion statement are the words “Discipline yourselves, keep alert.” Spiritual strictness helps us get closer to God and to what God wants us to be.
The words that come after the roaring lion verse are: “resist him, steadfast in your faith.” So yes, it’s spiritual! It’s about faith, the free and undeserved gift of God that keeps us safe. Faith keeps us on the right track. Faith keeps us from being spiritually devoured.
Some Bible scholars hold that the term “Roaring Lion” is a title: a designation of an older, retired lion who doesn’t function in the capacity he once did. His energy is sapped. He’s been retired. He’s the “Lion Emeritus,” if you will. He really doesn’t have any real power left. The only thing he really has left is his roar, and it’s certainly weaker than in days past.
If this Bible text refers to such a “Roaring Lion,” then we’re being told: just walk away when you hear the roar. Don’t get caught in a trap that is only sound. You’re strong enough to resist the lion’s power. The lion’s teeth have lost their sharpness. The lion has been declawed. We believe that the “Roaring Lion” lost its power by the cross and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
With our Christian faith, we can resist even being afraid of “Roaring Lion,” who has been defeated by the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
We need to resist! We need to discipline ourselves! “Roaring Lion” is still out there! As Peter wrote, the roaring lion is an adversary and is still looking for someone to devour. But God’s word is calling us: do not be that person who gets devoured by an old defeated lion.
Discipline yourselves. Keep alert. Resist. Be steadfast in your faith, “with the cross of Jesus going on before!”