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Knowing Aslan pt.1
During an endless winter, his name brought hope.
His roar terrified a cruel witch.
His love led him to a cold stone table to save a foolish boy.
He is the great Lion, Aslan.
And his story is more real than you can imagine.
Who is Aslan? You know, of course, if you've seen the movies or read the book that he is the magnificent Lion in C.S Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But not everyone who meets Aslan picks up on who he really is. Perhaps you're one of these people. You may have loved the story but missed the deeper significance of the Lion. If so, let me tell you a little bit more about Narnia and Aslan.
Early in the story, four English children accidentally enter a parallel world—the antiquated kingdom of Narnia—through an enchanted wardrobe. When a Narnian beaver meets them and says he must lead them to Aslan, the very sound of the name gives the children extraordinary feelings:
Peter suddenly felt brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize it's the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer!
The children learn that Aslan is actually the Lord and God of the Narnian world. When they meet him, they utterly adore him, and it's easy to see why: The Lion is the very picture of love. Throughout all seven of Lewis' books known as The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan shows warm affection to them and to the creatures of the kingdom. He protects them, rescues them, fights for them, teaches them, weeps with them, plays with them, kisses them, laughs with them and even dies for them. It's easy to love Aslan, and everyone in Narnia does. (Well, not everyone, but we'll talk about that later.)
“Ok, I see where you're going,” you're probably saying now. “You're telling me that Aslan is really God. It's a nice fantasy, but it's all wishful thinking. The God that's been shown to me is nothing like Aslan.”
I understand that your picture of God may be far different from the Lion of Narnia. You may see Him as anything but warm and loving. You may see God as highly demanding, strict and judgmental, giving us a list of rigid rules and watching us through surveillance cameras with a frown on His face as He records every misdeed, lawlessness and mistake in a thick book. You may believe that God will love us only if we live well. He has high standards and low tolerance; if we fail to toe the line, He writes us off as unworthy. We may manage to avoid Hell and squeak into Heaven, but only if we rigidly follow His commandments and keep up our church attendance like a felon reporting to his parole officer.
You may blame God for your tragedies and troubles. Why did God allow a family member or friend to die before their time or due to sickness? Why did He allow some tragic event to take place when you were only a child? You may think that God doesn't care or isn't powerful enough to do anything about your situation. Either way, He isn't what you wanted in a God.
What you would like from God is what Aslan offers the Narnians—real concern, tender care, unconditional love and deep joy. So when you watch the movies or you read any of the books, it's little wonder that you should find yourself sighing and wishing for a God like Aslan.
I'm happy to tell you that these common ideas that so many people have about God are gross distortions, even libelous. You have been misled. The real God is like the fictional Aslan. Very much like Aslan. Or more accurately, Aslan is very much like God. In fact, one of the reasons C.S Lewis created Aslan was to correct our image of God and show us the truth about Him. Lewis understood our negative feelings—even resentment—toward God. He himself had been there. He grew up believing in God as a child, but found himself heading toward atheism after his mother died just before his tenth birthday, which in turn destroyed the happy life of his family. In his twenty years of atheism, he found modern religion a big turnoff.
But Lewis, many years later, found himself returning to his Christian faith and, more importantly, God, thus creating Aslan and writing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to reveal to children, and adults alike, the real truth about God without triggering all the defenses we raise against God and “religion.” So, let's take a trip to Narnia and see what Aslan shows us about God.
We'll begin with Edmund, the third of the four young siblings in the story. I don't know what was wrong with that boy. Maybe he just had a case of the “middle-child syndrome.” Lacking the status of the older Peter and Susan, or the cuteness and attention of the younger Lucy, maybe he felt left out, insignificant, overlooked. Maybe that's why he became such a bully and a pest.
After seeing Lucy enter the enchanted wardrobe, he sneaks into it alone and finds himself in Narnia. Aslan has long been absent from the country, and an old enemy, the White Witch, has taken over the land and frozen it under a permanent winter. She is acutely aware of an ancient prophecy that predicts her end when four human children sit on the thrones at Cair Paravel, the thrones of Narnia. So when she encounters Edmund wandering in the woods, alarms go off in her head. She entices the boy with his favorite treat, Turkish delight, and gets him to reveal that he has a brother and two sisters. Four human children—she must do away with them. She promises more of the treat to Edmund if he will bring his siblings to her. She says she intends to make him a king in Narnia, and he needs his brother and sisters to be his courtiers.
He agrees to bring them. He will to anything for more Turkish delight. He thinks that he has come into a really good deal. He can lord it over his siblings and have anything he desires, including all the candy he can stuff into his mouth. He doesn't realize, however, that the candy is enchanted, and anyone who tastes it will crave more and will go on craving it and eating it until he kills himself.
Soon afterward, when the four children enter Narnia together, Edmund tries to maneuver them toward the witch's castle. But the good Beaver intercepts them, warns them of the witch, and escorts them to Aslan. On the way however, Edmund sneaks off to find the witch, intent on betraying the others.
We all tend to be like Edmund with an “it's all about me” mind-set that drives us to satisfy cravings—or sins—we can't resist committing, even when they become destructive and deadly; every bad word said, every lie (fib, white lie or twisted truth), every dirty joke (that you told or laughed at), every time you swear you hate Such-and-Such and ever time you goggle at those blond beauty's or muscle-bound hunks.
No doubt you've experienced these problems firsthand. It's a condition we all share. We are all like Edmund, tempted by sin, and we wonder, Why did God create us so weak and powerless to these sins?
This question reveals one big misunderstanding many have about God: He didn't create sin, nor did He our sin nature. The first humans he created were beautiful, healthy and perfect in every way. They were in perfect harmony with nature, each other and God.
Why were they perfect? Because God created them that way; everything God created was perfect, since this is the way God is. All of nature, when God first created it, was lush, beautiful and utterly benign. As the crowning act of Creation, God created man and woman. The Bible tells us in Gen.1:27 He went one step further with them, creating them “in His own image.”
What does this mean? Well, you know how it is when you create anything dear to your heart; you tend to put a part of yourself in it. Many authors have particular characters inspired by themselves or scenes in a book may have been inspired by something that happened in their own lives. The way a person paints, draws, writes...they all are unique to the person who created them. We all inherited this attribute from God. He was the first to put a part of Himself into a Creation; in Adam and Eve. He created them perfect, just like He is.
God placed these perfect humans in His perfect world, giving them dominion of the earth (Gen.1:28-30). He placed them in that luscious garden known as the Garden of Eden where they lived in perfection and walked with God, untouched by pain, sickness, trouble or death.
Do you know how you tend to fall in love with the things you create? Artists often have certain pieces they will not sell. The same is true for God. He was in love with Adam and Eve. He delighted in the gorgeous couple living in the green woods. Genesis indicates that God and his couple walked together “in the cool of the day” (Gen.3:8). Adam and Eve had a world of beauty and wonder, they had each other and all of it filled them with unbounded joy. But their greatest love and delight was God Himself. No misunderstanding, no alienation existed between God and them. This was the way God created them to be.
Obviously things have changed drastically since then. What went wrong in Eden? How did we go from the perfect world of Eden to the death-and-diseased-ravaged world filled with Edmunds, overrun with sin and faults, betraying their siblings for another fix of candy, separated from God. The answer begins with the fact that God didn't create a world of robots. God created Adam and Eve with free will to make their own choices. They could freely choose whether to live in perfection with God or to reject Him. He gave them one simple command—not to eat of a certain tree—to signify whether they would follow the path God created for them or try to find happiness their own way. If only they had not listened to the malicious words of the Serpent, they would have remained living in perfect peace; but they listened the snake's lies and ate of the forbidden fruit. The first bite taken signified their rejection of God and their choosing to go it alone.
How did God react? If I had been God, I most likely would have said, “Those ungrateful wretches! After all that I've done for them, they turn their backs on Me! If that's the way they're going to act, well then good riddance!” But God did nothing like that; instead He was heartbroken. He felt the way you would feel if you did some great favor for a friend and they abandoned you a day later; only He probably felt infinitely worse. But He respected their choice. He didn't force them back to His path, but because their bodies were now infected with the disease of sin, He could no longer commune with them.
As you can see, Adam and Eve, by being selfish and wanting their own way, they created a gap between God and humankind. God had nothing to do with this division; He didn't want it and it grieved Him more than anything. Adam and Eve had no clue what irreversible consequence their choice would set in motion. Just as the White Witch turned Narnia into an eternal ice land, “always winter and never Christmas,” Satan put the world under the domination of the curse of sin. Storms, floods, weeds, disease, ruin, rot and death infected the earth. All the evils that plague us today are the result of the choice Adam and Eve made and have been inherited by every human being who are alive and have ever been alive.
We are all like Adam and Eve and Edmund, rebels wanting no one to tell us what to do and filled with sin, giving us craving to satisfy ourselves at any cost.
Edmund informs the witch that his brother and sisters have come into Narnia. But instead of rewarding his treachery with the promised Turkish delight, she enslaves him and plans to execute him to foil the prophecy of her destruction. Although the Narnians rescue Edmund, the witch rightfully claims the right to take his life; she, according to the Emperor Across the Sea's law, owns every traitor. Edmund's horrified siblings protest, but Aslan affirms the witch's right to their brother's blood. The Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time decrees that all traitors must be turned over to her to be killed.
Our world also has a law like the Deep Magic: in Rom.3:23 it states that “the wages of sin is death.” All traitors of God's law, or sinners, will one day be turned over to Satan for eternal destruction. There's more to this death than simply leaving your earthly body; all sinners are doomed to remain in death in a place called Hell.
Hell is a place. It's a reality. It's not a cuss word. It's not a place you tell people to go to when you're ticked at them. It's a real and eternal place where you will go when you die. It's a place of fire. Imagine being burned alive, yet never dieing. You will eternally burn. But your nerves will never be destroyed. You will never become numbed to the pain. It will always be a real and as awful and as painful as when you first entered. It's a place of darkness. Even with all the fire, it will be the darkest place you have ever been in. There will not be a trace of light anywhere, forever.
You know those dreams you have. The type of dream where you fall off of something and you just never stop falling? Well, Hell with be infinity times worse. Hell is a bottomless pit. You will begin falling and never stop, and you will continue being absolutely terrified of crashing to the bottom (or possibly, you will begin to pray to God that you will crash to the ground and end this suffering, but God won't hear you). It's a place of flesh-eating bugs, and "gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:12, 13:42, 13:50). It's a place where all your worst nightmares come to life. It's a place of eternal loneliness. Although there will be millions of other people beside you, falling and burning and being eaten alive and screaming endlessly, you will never see them nor hear them. You will never meet another soul for the rest of eternity. Because of the conscience breaking of God's law, there is no way we can stop ourselves from being sent to Hell.
In Edmund, we clearly see how yielding to temptation leads to this destruction. As the Bible explains, Jas 1:14-15 “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Sin is like a deadly addiction. Just as smoking destroys your lungs or alcohol destroys your liver or drugs destroy your brain, sin destroys your eternal soul.
The witches temptation of Edmund in Narnia is the same kind that we face today. No matter what the particular sin is, it's still the result of Satan's temptation. He tells you to get out from under God's thumb and do things your own way; God doesn't really know what He's talking about anyway.
Our acting upon Satan's rebellious temptations show our addiction to sin. We say things we should have kept to ourselves, we do things we know are wrong, we lie, steal little things, watch things we shouldn't, listen to perverted music. If we're at all conscience that our actions go against God's law, we may try to change by ourselves—we try to hold our tongues, tell the truth more, not watch certain movies or listen to certain types of music. For a while you may succeed, but you always slip up. We're incapable to stop entirely. God gave us our desires to lead us to joy, but since we rejected Him and chose a life of sin, we can not control our desire to sin. We are all rebels deserving death. Eternal death.
We need help. Desperately.
Peter, Susan and Lucy plead with Aslan to do something about Edmund's fate. Can't he undo the Deep Magic? The answer is no. The foundational laws of Narnia cannot be broken. But as the children despair, the Lion confers with the witch privately. When the conference ends, Aslan announces that the witch has forfeited her claim to Edmund's blood. The children are overjoyed.
That night, after everyone has gone to bed for the night, Aslan leaves camp. Susan and Lucy silently follow him as he walks toward an ancient sacred mound. The White Witch and her monsters wait for Aslan at the mound. They seize him, bind him, shave him, beat him and ultimately kill him, all while he silently submits. From their hiding place, the girls watch in horror. The great Lion is dead. He has sacrificed himself for the traitor.