On May 2 Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao faced off in what was billed as the fight of the century. As we now know the much-anticipated boxing match did not live up to the hype and was deemed a disappointment by most of those who spent close to $100 to watch it on pay-per-view. Still, it was nice to see boxing, formerly America’s most prolific combat sport, return to the forefront of sports and pop culture during the build-up to the bout. The days of Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, and Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield are long gone, and mixed martial arts, namely the UFC, have taken the crown as the most popular combat sport in the United States. With stars like former wrestler turned ultimate fighter (and then wrestler again) Brock Lesnar and women’s champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, fights inside the octagon are bringing in big money and record ratings. Combat sports are nothing new; they have been a part of most cultures throughout world history. For some reason, we love to see brute force on display in spite of the damage done to the weaker opponent.
As it pertains to matters of faith many that profess to be Christians want religion to be our culture’s next big combat sport. Whether it is predicting the downfall of our country or preparing for the next big brawl over controversial doctrinal issues, contentious disputes are plaguing the Church. Below are three things I believe we need to think about to avoid making faith a combat sport and to get back to the business of reaching the lost.
1. Current Events Are Irrelevant to our Faith
Many Christians are heavily involved in the political debates of our day. Some are fiscal issues while others are social issues that the Bible clearly speaks on (i.e. same-sex marriage). I feel like I see modern doomsday prophets on my Facebook news feed nearly every day predicting the downfall of our country and a new era of Christian persecution. I do not know what our future holds politically, but I do know the future of the Kingdom of God – it will stand FOREVER (Daniel 2:44). Whether we are in captivity like Daniel or living in the land of the free, God’s Word remains unchanged. We need to do what we can to make the truth known to our country and our world, but we do not need to fret over things that are beyond our control. As long as we stand for truth our eternal destiny is unaffected by the world around us.
Furthermore, we need to stop associating being a Christian with being aligned with a particular political party or candidate. It is certainly in our best interest to vote for the nominee that stands for Christian values, but we need to stop fooling ourselves into thinking that the election of a politician means a return to the days of our traditional values. The culture around us has changed, and a statesman can only operate within the climate that he/she lives in. Instead of rallying around a politician or party and pressuring members of the Church to vote for a certain candidate, we need to endorse the only Savior that we will ever know – Jesus Christ. Instead of using the influence that we yield from our pulpits and social media accounts to spout rhetoric, we need to be writing, posting, and sharing things that preach Christ and him crucified to a lost and dying world.
2. We Can Only Correct Error with Open Hearts and Open Bibles
Ephesians 4:15 tells us to “speak the truth in love.” Many have tried to combat false teaching through public shaming and name-calling, and this has been predictably ineffective. “Calling out” a particular person or religious group is counterproductive to the ultimate goal of mutually discovering truth. The tales of preachers condemning a denomination when they know a member of said group is in attendance is heartbreaking. Other than the great platform that Peter had at Pentecost every conversion accounts in Acts occurred because great men of faith showed genuine love and concern and studied the scriptures with a small, captive audience. I will never forget seeing a poster in our local elementary school that said “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!” Individual studies are a byproduct of showing compassion for a lost soul. The next time that someone who misunderstands the Bible or has been taught incorrectly comes in our assembly we need to look at it as an opportunity to get to know them so we can lovingly teach them the truth!
Similarly, if we go into a study of the Bible simply looking to win an argument we will never be able to convict the hearts of those we are studying with. I understand the desire to debate and affirm our beliefs, but we need to go into every study, whether with people of other faiths or the unchurched, with pure intentions and no ulterior motives. We should always seek to lovingly “explain the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26) as Aquila and Priscilla did with Apollos. Hate accomplish nothing while love can accomplish all!
3. Jesus Prayed for His Church to Have Unity
In John 17:20-23 Jesus prayed for the unity of all the members of His Church, so it is so disheartening to see the division that has plagued our Lord’s Church for so long. It seems that anytime we meet someone claiming to be a member of the one Church of the Bible we immediately try to identify them based on which congregation they attend, who they are associated with, or where they stand on matters of opinion. When we are washed in the blood of Jesus and he adds us to His Church we instantly become part of a holy fellowship. This relationship is so valuable, and we must strive to be unified even in the face of disagreements. We should always be studying and growing stronger, but we should be doing so together! We are brothers and sisters through Christ not through ego and human alliances.
Religion is not a combat sport, and we should always be concerned with soul-saving as opposed to winning battles or embarrassing those who do not agree with us. We need to live in peace and be a constant example of what it means to be a Christian until that wonderful day when we are called home and leave all sorrow and strife behind. Politics, religious error, and personal differences are all temporary, but our home in Heaven is eternal!
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:9-18 ESV)
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