I wish we could. If we could I'd choose an old, feeble, toothless one, a benign one.
I'd choose one that had been used on the MGM movie set for years, one that everyone trusted. You just steer around him when you move across the set, absent-mindedly stroking his fur as you go past. Little kids make a point of visiting that set, tumbling over him with squeals of delight.
I don't think I'd even mind the fierce ones, the ones that you meet in the arena, the ones that immediately lunge for you and gobble you up and you're home free. It would all be over so fast you wouldn't have much time to be terrified. Besides, I've heard that in the shock of being attacked--by a bear, a shark, maybe even a human--you don't feel any pain.
But some of these lions look so righteous--a stiffness in the spine, a firmness around the mouth, a determination in the eye that could never be mistaken for compassion. Others look sincere and gently reproachful. Lions that genuinely don't know they are lions, who think we are the lions and they are the martyrs.
It's these last that are the hardest to face. They seem genuinely sorrowful that they have to eat us--but they will eat us all the same. Grind up our bones and spit out the gristle. And they will tell themselves they are doing it for God.
That's not why I mind facing them. I regret it because we have known them so long, many of them--respected them, trusted them, served with them, cared about them and their families, sharing a common faith. I regret their decision to give their loyalty to a Pied Piper leading them farther and farther astray, rather than to the unchanging Son of God and His word. I regret their inability or unwillingness to see this, the deception that holds them in bondage.
They may not be martyrs but they are the captives, not us.
P.S. If I could choose my lions, I'd choose Aslan.