This past weekend I had a wonderful time at the Truth & Love Conference in Dallas, Texas. It was edifying to hear how we, as Christians, should prepare for and respond to the homosexual movement that is overtaking us like a tsunami. There was sweet worship, great fellowship, and engaging teaching. It was also just plain cool to see a man in the flesh that I have listened to for years, Dr. James White. Overall, I think it was a good-sized crowd in attendance. But there were plenty of empty seats. I find myself wondering if some of those seats were empty because of an event that had a full house…
The boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night was billed as “The Fight of the Century”. The venue, the MGM Grand Garden arena in Las Vegas, has a reported capacity of 16,800. When tickets went on-sale, they were sold-out in less than a minute. On Pay-Per-View, so many people were trying to tune-in that it caused cable outages, resulting in a 45-minute delay of the fight itself. As for the number of viewers:
Despite the issues and despite the $99.95 price being charged by most providers for the HD feed, the fight is expected to blow away the record of 2.48 million pay-per-view buys for the Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya fight in 2007. (The Telegraph)
A lot of people watched this fight, which is somewhat understandable, given that this fight didn’t happen in 2010 due to failed negotiations. There was an increasing demand to see it. But how many Christians watched it?
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates. (Psalm 11:5)
Boxing and mixed martial arts are sports where the goal, the entire purpose, is to inflict physical damage on your opponent. It is violent, defined as “rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment”. Can a Christian enjoy as entertainment something that God hates? If you question whether He hates violence, read His words to Noah, “Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:13)
Now I can hear an objection already: what about all of those wars and violence in the Old Testament that was commanded by God Himself? Let’s take a look at God’s instructions for warfare in Deuteronomy 20, “When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. When the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.” (Deuteronomy 20:10-13)
Sounds pretty violent. However, it had a purpose– God’s retribution upon evil.
We must see these terrible retributions in their historical setting. The spread of wickedness was so pervasive that immorality, degradation, and barbarity invaded every facet of life. Children were sacrificed to pagan gods. Male and female prostitution took place right in the temple as part of the religious rites. Idol worship was rife and the society wholly contaminated. This evil was contagious and God’s people were in danger of being infected as well. God’s awesome judgement was finally unleashed.1
Though God sometimes commands violence, He never delights in it. Instead, God’s desire is that sinners would repent.
“But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:21-23)
Certainly, what we take in as entertainment affects us, sometimes in ways we don’t realize. What we look at matters. If not, is it then acceptable for a Christian to view pornography?
“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)
Of course, other sports have violent aspects to them, such as football. But injury is not the goal of the sport. Christian football fans shouldn’t cheer when an opposing player is injured. In football and other sports, violence is incidental, not fundamental.
fundamental: forming a necessary base or core; of central importance.
incidental: liable to happen as a consequence of (an activity).
Sadly, now that the fight is over, many people are expressing disappointment that the fight just wasn’t violent enough. They paid good money to see some violence, and it wasn’t enough to satisfy their blood lust. This GQ article is at least honest enough to admit it:
A safer boxing is a duller boxing. We’re here to see somebody get their eyes rolled back in their head. When we all talk this morning about how “boring” the fight was, how much of a waste it was, how boxing always disappoints, how The Fight Of The Century was a dud… that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about how no one was hurt, [expletive]. We’re talking about a lack of action, where action means someone’s cranial fluid leaking out their ears. This could have been 12 rounds of Mayweather bouncing around the ring as Pacquiao flailed around him, but if it had ended with a flurry of Manny punches that knocked Mayweather’s nose into the back of his skull, we would have cheered and screamed and pounded our chests. We wanted blood. We didn’t get it. So we are disappointed.2
My fear is that a lot of Christians would agree with the sentiment expressed above.
“Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man. (Genesis 9:6)
Ultimately, murder is wrong because an image-bearer of God is being killed. Is willfully inflicting damage upon an image-bearer somehow acceptable? A person’s permission to inflict harm upon themselves is irrelevant, because we’re not talking about offending them. We are talking about offending their Creator, whose image they bear.
I will close with a quote from a former boxing trainer, and Christian, Gordon Mariano:
The decisive question for Christians is, “What is going to bring in the light and make us more loving, kinder human beings?” On that score, I must confess that upon exiting the arena, I have seldom sensed that a night at the fights punches up our ability to love our neighbor.