The most dangerous villains speak. That serves as an enduring apologetic to the power of words.
The worst villains are talkers. They do not grunt and mumble inarticulately as they knock down buildings — they watch, they plan, they wait, they smile. While uninspired renditions gut the Frankenstein’s monster of sophistication, Mary Shelley gave us a truly horrifying antagonist: A strong, intelligent, speaking creature, capable of both good and evil, love and hate. The screws-in the-neck, staggering moaner is a parody of true villainy.
Scar, in Disney’s beloved Lion King, is no parody of evil. He is an archetypal villain, not merely a wild brute. This made it hard to watch for me as a child. He unnerved me. No matter how I yelled at the screen, Mufasa and Simba couldn’t hear my warnings. I loved watching the Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, and Batman combat evil, but to watch someone get stabbed from behind hit a different nerve. The bewildered cry of “Et tu Brute?” cut its victim and its hearer.
The liar feasts on his prey’s mind and spirit. He aims at the soul, not just the body. Liars use their words to turn their prey’s own strength against them. They presume innocence in their craftiness: “Did God really say?” They shake their heads and smile as they say, “You will not surely die.” They lure (not push) their victim off the cliff: “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.”
Scar, like humanity’s greatest adversary, does not overwhelm; he outwits. His whisper, not his bite, ruins souls.
Into Pride Valley
It was known by all on Pride Rock that Mufasa was king. He was the benevolent alpha of the pride: The just, the stern, the tender. As with the best rulers, his roar sounded the fiercest, and his laugh the heartiest. He was a king worthy of the name.
But not all welcomed his reign. Alone, one brooded in the shadows. Mufasa’s younger brother, Taka, received his nickname “Scar” after he was slashed over his eye during a failed attack on Mufasa’s life. In his failed coup, the legend of the lion mimics the true story of the dragon: “The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:9).
Years after the botched assassination, Lion King picks up with Scar, still second in line (and inexplicably the only other male lion on Pride Rock), biding his time, waiting in the cleft to be enthroned. His strategy changes, however, with the birth of Simba, the new heir to the throne. The scepter, never held, beckons Scar back to former plots.
But Scar is prudent. He does not go after Mufasa alone — or even Simba. He conspires with hyenas in his first attempt to kill the cub. He entices him, ever so nonchalantly, to wander into the elephant’s graveyard. He succeeds, but for Mufasa rescuing his son.
The next attempt on Simba’s life is the defining event of the movie. Scar and company lure Simba into the Pride Lands, incite a stampede of wildebeest, into which, Mufasa charges to again save his son. Mufasa rescues Simba, escaping up the cliff himself where Scar, watching all unfold at the top, sees his opportunity. Seeing Mufasa vulnerable, he exacts vengeance, digging his claws into his paws and throwing him down from the cliff. Simba finds his father below, dead.
Scar now has to improvise. What to do with Simba, the rightful heir?
Accuser of the Brethren
Having just flung his brother to his death, the murderer casts down Simba using his words. He accuses him. Simba was responsible for his father’s death. He claws at his identity: How can he be a fit son or ruler of the kingdom? He must banish himself and never return. He sends shame stampeding towards the young cub, concluding, “Run away Simba. . . . Run. Run away and never return.”
Does this sound familiar?
Satan’s name literally means “accuser.” He is the one who accuses believers day and night before God (Revelation 12:10). Like Scar, the evil one orchestrates many temptations, constantly attempting to lure us with false promises into the Pride Lands. Finding a friend in man’s nature, he suggests, waits, and watches — ready to accuse us the moment we fall.
Have you heard his voice recently? He stands at hand to condemn every failure and shame every sin. You did it again, I see. How can you really call yourself a child of the king? Run away and never return. Like Scar, Satan tells you lies to get you to banish yourself from the kingdom of heaven because he cannot forcibly remove you.
When Satan Tells the Truth
Satan does not always need to lie. He will force even the truth from his lips in order to damn us. And unlike Simba, we are guilty. Standing before the just Judge, the hellish prosecutor points at real sins and cries for our condemnation. What is our defense against his lies and truth? Jesus.
Our King, our Mufasa charged into the stampede, climbed up the rock for Scar to thrust him down, and endured our punishment from a Father who “crushed him.” His great act, in the Pride Lands of Golgotha, led to our right standing and life before God (Romans 5:18). Christ suffered once for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). He exonerated us at the cost of his life because of his great love. And he did not stay motionless in the valley.
Scar hates this. If he lies to unbelievers that they are not sick at all, and therefore do not need a Savior, he tells believers that this sacrifice was not enough, that god will not forgive them, that their sin is too great, their failures too many, that they are not really children — that God frowns and holds his nose when they draw near.
Simba, like many of us who don’t hear the voice of truth as we once did, lived away from his kingdom, slurping worms and singing “Hakuna Matata.” His shame made him deny who he was. He lived like a warthog and meerkat.
If Satan cannot finally destroy us, if he cannot finally rob us of the life the Spirit has given or the grace God has bestowed, if he cannot unmake the new creation, or lay you to rest as a child of wrath, he means to banish you to live in the jungle away from God’s voice, away from your purpose. If you have authority to become a child of God (John 1:12), he means to shame you into not exercising it.
Nala, a lioness, finds Simba in exile, not knowing who he is. He fled his identity, his family, his calling. And he, like many of us, need to hear something. We need to listen to a different voice. Mufasa’s words brought Simba home. Mufasa speaks to us today: You are a child. You are light. You are holy. You are forgiven. You are new. Rise, and sin no more.
He exposes lies. Warns against sin. Roars of his love for his people. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts or allow Satan to mute his words with accusations over forgiven sin. “Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?” (Romans 8:33–34). Rise from your guilt. Rise from your sin. Rise from your pigsty — they’re no place for a prince or princess of the King. Show yourself upon the safari’s plain, and he will run to meet you with a ring, a robe, and a song of love.