“The Circle of Life” is Only a Circle for Christians

Yes, I recently watched the Lion King (for about the 95th time). The real one from 1994, not that garbage live-action version Disney peddled like snake oil without James Earl Jones.

At the risk of suffering from this earworm for the rest of the day, I’m sure you remember the main them: “Circle of Life”:

From the day we arrive on the planet
And, blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

It’s the circle of life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
‘Til we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life

Mufasa explains the circle of life to young Simba as basically a sermon in conservation. “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.”

So far as the broad idea of the circle of life is concerned, I’m all for it. It’s a no brainer: conserve the often delicate ecosystems of the environment and wilderness for its own sake and for the sustainability of the wildlife; this is just good stewardship of the earth. I respect the yearling who walks by my hunting blind in October, knowing that next year when he grows a rack all bets are off. The herd is culled responsibly, which supports healthy growth and sustainability of the rest of the forest, even of the deer being hunted.

Anyway. I thought about this last week when I had the pastoral experience of a 100-year-old death and a newborn baby birth on the same day. Sadness and mourning on the one hand, thanksgiving and celebration on the other. “♫ It’s the ciiiiircle of life! ♫”

But upon further reflection, on the individual level, is there really such a thing as the circle of life? That’s all well and good for a Disney movie and hunting season, but there is no such circle for the human being. You are conceived, you live for a while, then you die. That is a straight line.

Unless you are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). “Everyone who believes in [Jesus] will live even though he dies; and everyone who lives and believes in [Jesus] will never die (John 11:25–26).”

That is a circle. And you get into that circle by your baptism. You come to life out of the waters, at which time you can now faithfully say whether we live or die we belong to the Lord (Rom 14:8).

The man who died last week had the sign of the cross made on his forehead to remind his grieving family that in Christ, he is merely sleeping, and that all who believe the same will be reunited again. The baby who was born on the same day will soon be brought to the waters of Holy Baptism, and the same cross will be made on her forehead, marking her as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

It’s the circle of life.