Society: Who Calls the Young Lions?

There are those things in life that are historical and those things that are history. There are some tremendously historical things that are happening today… I lived in Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution…and I saw something happen there that really frightened me. When Mao was losing control of his revolution he called on the youth of about 12 to 18 years old—the Red Guard—and literally gave them the country. And four years later the Red Guard had killed 30 million Chinese … Then I lived down in Manila and I had a contact in Cambodia and I saw there in 1974 and 75 a guy by the name of Pol Pot, and he went out and got the 14, 18, and 19 year old kids—the Khmer Roug. Ten million people and they killed a million of them in just a few months. So, again, when Pol Pot wanted to turn Cambodia into Cambosia he went out and got the young people … Then in 1994, somebody called me from Africa, and said something terrible is about to happen in Rwanda … [the Rwandan president had] recruited 14 to 18 or 19 year-old kids and he taught them three things. He taught them how to use an AK-47; they learned how to pull a pin on a grenade, count three and throw it into a group of people; and how to use a machete …Then the president’s elite guard thought he was giving too much away to the Tutsis so as his plane came in … they launched a heat seeking missile and blew the plane up. And on signal, again we had the same thing we had in China. There were 14 to 19 year-old kids moving in and killing at random…

~Carl Lawrence, from a speech on May 25, 1996.

Lawrence spent twenty years as a missionary with Far East Broadcasting Company and thirteen years as missions director and speaker for Haven of Rest Radio Ministry. He has lived in Korea, Okinawa, Hong Kong and the Philippines. He has written eight books, one of which, The Church in China, won the Golden Medallion for literary excellence. He also wrote Rwanda: A Walk Through Darkness into Light. He lives in Corvallis, Oregon.

I remember this speech vividly. Lawrence described the events above and then pointed out a jarring comparison. By way of example, he observed that colonial rulers had come into the African nations and assumed responsibility for the defense of the colonial lands, a task that had originally been done by the tribal men. The men would stand guard while the women would do agricultural chores—defense was the masculine responsibility. Colonialism stripped them of their traditional duty. The outcome in Africa, as in many other lands, was that the young men became aimless and without purpose. Lawrence, who had lived in Los Angeles during the riots, pointed out that our young men were in a similar place.

Think about the last picture you’ve seen of an angry mob in the Middle East. Mostly young men, passionate, driven, aggressive, violent. It is the way they are. Testosterone is to blame. So say fretting observers. It’s a male thing, not matter where you live.

Virile is the word for the vitality and power of the male—it makes them lions. Virility need not be a bad thing. It speaks of strength and ability. But it is also the quality from which we draw the term that describes the opposite of all that is good and admirable in the human male: virulent. It means, bitter, hostile, antagonistic, hateful.

Maleness has the potential for great good or unspeakable evil. Make no mistake, the Red Guard, the Khmer Roug, and the Interahamwe mobs were men—by Carl Lawrence’s account, young men.

I have been thinking about God’s intention for young men. The Creator made them what they are. He endowed them with the blessing of virility. He knew about testosterone. He is well aware of the awesome potential for good in such creatures, and the frightening potential for evil.

And so is the spirit of the dark.

So who will call the young lions? To whose voice will they respond? The next Mao? Pol Pot? Another leader like Rwanda’s Habyarimana or Rutaganda? Or, Bin Laden?

I am struck by the reason that many young American soldiers give for enlisting in the armed forces. They say they want to do something important with their life. They want to be involved in something bigger than themselves. They want to matter. Indeed, the recruitment ads and the pitch from the recruiters often appeal to explosive passion of the young man to be wed to a cause. In our culture, it is the cause of democracy and the fight against terrorism and fascist religion.

That is why they—our young lions—fight our wars. I thank God for them, even as I worry that their passion may be taken for granted by reckless leaders.

But there is a greater cause: the cause of the Kingdom, which isn’t a cause at all, but a destiny. Who calls the young lions to life between the worlds? We do.

And to what do we call them? Perhaps as important, from what? Jesus called his disciples away from their daily chores and their mediocre lives. He called them to destiny apart from the world, to something that mattered—larger than themselves. He called them to something with the whole sky in it, something worth living for and worth dying for. He didn’t call them to a nation, or to a cause, he called them to their destiny, which was a call to courage and self-sacrifice in this world.

The young lions will not respond to anything less. They were not intended to. And if we, the fathers and mothers who have tethered our destiny to the Kingdom and its King, do not call them to a costly destiny, they will instead hear those who beckon them to lesser things, some noble, but some vile and virulent.

It’s time to consider the cost of life between the worlds. If our life is paltry and inconsequential then we have nothing worthy of the young lions. But if it be courageous and adventurous; if it challenges the darkness and stands its ground at the gates of hell; if it shouts a message of hope against the hurricane of hate, then we have something to offer. Anything less is does not matter enough.

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