“Can you love your neighbor as yourself and at the same time knee him in the face as hard as you can?” This is one question raised by “Fight Church,” a new documentary on Christianity and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). As the name implies, the sport pits contestants who combine boxing, wrestling, and other martial skills. It is the fastest-growing sport in America, with as many as 65 million fans globally.
It is also a sport with significant Christian connections. Many of MMA’s best-known figures are believers. More and more churches are staging MMA events to attract non-Christians. Some offer programs which combine MMA with biblical discipleship. There’s even a clothing line called “Jesus Didn’t Tap” (to “tap” in the ring is to quit).
One MMA pastor featured in “Fight Church” says, “We don’t fight out of meanness. We have no hate or bitterness in our heart.” Supporters liken MMA to football, boxing, and other contact sports. Critics aren’t so sure. As one priest responded, “John says love one another. This is not love.”
When can Christians use secular culture to advance the gospel? When is such engagement detrimental to us and to our witness?
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Some parts of the culture are clearly off-limits for followers of Jesus. For instance, Rev. Bob Coy, founder of the 20,000-member Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, resigned Sunday over “a moral failing in his life.” Sin will always take us further than we wanted to go, keep us longer than we wanted to stay, and cost us more than we wanted to pay.
You can think of some parts of culture that Christians must avoid at all costs: pornography, for example. Other areas of culture are not so unambiguous. What tempts me may not tempt you. God may call you to serve him in places I dare not go.
Remember Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). Our Lord violated every social custom governing their conversation: Jews did not deal with Samaritans, devout Jewish men did not speak publicly to women, and rabbis were not seen with notorious sinners. But Jesus engaged a part of culture his contemporaries would have avoided, and touched an entire village in the process.
Is MMA a suitable subject for Christian engagement and evangelism? Where are your cultural lines in the sand? What boundaries have you created for yourself? Please share your thoughts on our website.
And know that the Spirit wants to lead you to engage your culture for Christ, perhaps in ways you didn’t expect. As the Lord drew Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), so he will lead you if you will follow. William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, believed that “the greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.” How great will your power be today?
Used with Permission from Denision forum on Truth and Culture