This article appeared in The Times newspaper some years ago – “THE heart-tugging video diary of Christian the lion, a big cat who lived in a London antiques shop, has become an internet sensation – 38 years after he was returned to life in the African bush. The home movie has been watched 6m times on You Tube and other sites, rekindling celebrity for two Australians who bought a lion cub from Harrods in 1969 to impress their friends.
The trio became stars in Chelsea, playing football in a park, but Christian grew too big and at 18 months he was moved to the Kenyan wildlife sanctuary featured in the film Born Free.
A year later his former owners, John Rendall and Anthony Bourke, visited the sanctuary, but its founder, George Adamson, warned them to stay away from Christian, who was now in the wild and had his own pride. He said the lion would tear them to pieces.
Instead, as the film shows, Christian rushed towards them, putting his paws on Rendall’s shoulders and licking his face in joy. It is a moment of touching friendship that has reduced millions to tears. After the meeting, Christian was never seen again.”
At the end of the short video the words appear thus: “love knows no limits, true friendship lasts a lifetime. Get back in touch; you’ll be glad you did”
The story of affection between humans and animals is not new, but a wild lion is something exceptional. For those who have watched this video it is indeed heart-warming. History is replete with animals who are loyal to their owner, and who display immense affection. For those of us who own animals, we have that pleasure and knowledge. Even if you correct them, which at times you have to, they still display that uninterrupted faithfulness.
This turned me to human friendship, which is a rare commodity. If you can boast one good friend you are rich indeed. Let the philosophers of earth speak – “True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it be lost.” (Charles Caleb Colton). “Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.” (Elbert Hubbard)“Friendship that can cease has never been real.” (Saint Jerome). Lastly, “Friendship without self-interest is one of the rare and beautiful things in life.” (James Francis Byrnes)
And now the Bible: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Prov 27:6) and “A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov 18:24). I suppose the greatest friendship in the Bible between men is that between David and Jonathan, which is recorded or summed up in this one text – “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” (2 Sam 1:26) and, they were not homosexuals! I have kept the text in the Authorised Version of 1611 to give it that ancient ring, which is language that inspires. We can sometime so modernise scripture that it fails to grip.
However, I believe that one of the greatest friendships is found in the Song of Solomon, in Song 5:16 – “His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” The dusky maiden is talking of her beloved the king. Solomon had 300 wives and 700 concubines and then fell in love for the first time; it was love that was under-girded by philos – friendship love. When all fails a marriage can be sustained by friendship. That is why it is wisdom not to rush that kind of relationship until friendship has been established.
But above all these kinds of friendships we, those of us who are born again, have Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, as our friend. “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:15). How precious! “He sticks closer than a brother”