Blog

Fight Club for Christians

When I was young, I loved to talk about fight stories. I was really scared of fighting, but I knew I needed a few under my belt in order to have some cred among my friends. I have always worked out quite a bit, could normally lift more than anyone I knew, and had a boxing bag in my garage that I often pummeled to submission in front of my gawking friends. The first fight I got into was in sixth grade. It was an accident, but it did the trick. One fellow, who had a history of bullying, decided to bully me. He instigated a confrontation and the tension grew. As we were at a standoff, he flinched like he was about to hit me. My reflexes kicked in and I accidentally slugged him in the jaw. I felt for him as tears welled up in his eyes before he ran off.

In high school I got into a rather serious fight. I was driving to a party with four of my buddies. We were all drunk and out of our minds. Driving down the road, someone had the gall to pass us and honk their horn (yeah, I know…can you believe the nerve?). Well, we would have none of that. We chased them down to a stop light. While waiting at the light, I jumped out of the car to chase them down (note: when drunk, for some reason you think you can chase someone better on foot than in a car). By the time I got to their window, they took off. My friends, still in the car, chased after them, leaving me behind at the corner, so I decided to walk to the convenience store fifty feet away. As I walked through the parking lot, a group of six gangster-looking guys surrounded me. I stopped. They said, “Give us your money.” I don’t remember much, but I do remember my idiotic response: “No. You give me your money.” The next thing I felt was a hard slug in my jaw. Now, being a “boxer” (if having a punching bag in my garage qualifies me as such!), I decided to start dancing around and trading punches with six guys. And you know what? I held my own. After a few minutes, my friends came back to pick me up. All of them tell the story of pulling up to me dancing in a parking lot with six hooded guys surrounding me. They jumped out of the car to come to my aid and eventually all the guys ran. I later came to find out that this group of guys were members of one of the most feared gangs around. When word about what happened got out, I was revered and honored among men. There were not too many people who would mess with me after that. Over the next few years, there were many more bar fights. I took a guy down just for talking to my girlfriend. Another time I fought for my sister’s honor. One time I had to step in as some random girl was getting hurt by her boyfriend. I was not necessarily a fighter, but I was always ready for a fight. I am just lucky no one ever had a gun or knife.

I often look back on those days and laugh. Who did I think I was? Though it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell, I still work out and I still have my bag in my garage. But it would be a rare circumstance today in which I would ever fight anyone. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a pacifist. If I am truly threatened (like I was about two years ago – another really weird story), I will protect myself and my family. But I am never looking for confrontation like I did twenty years ago. Who did I think I was?

(One more story.) One of the fights I remember most vividly happened when I was downtown leaving a bar with my buds. Some guys bumped into my friend. You just don’t do that. We all turned around. We stood there and stared at each other for about ten seconds. Then, without warning, I looked at one of the guys and clocked him as hard as I could in the face. It was the hardest and cleanest hit I ever had. The guy fell to the ground and did not move. Who in the world did I think I was? Who am I to hit someone?

I look back today in shame. Threatened or not, I enjoyed those encounters. I enjoyed being the big man on the block. I enjoyed telling these stories over and over. I enjoyed hitting people who were created in the image of God. Who did I think I was?

Now we are mature. I am in ministry, for goodness’ sake. And we are all grown up. We don’t meet after school at 3:10 in the parking lot. We don’t defend the honor of our loved ones with our physical might. We don’t turn eyes blue with a closed hand. We are mature. Right?

I am not so sure. We may not fight people with our fists, but we do fight each other with words. All we need is a crafty pen or a pulpit. Blogs are our fists and the audience we command is our brawn. Yes, we do fight. Yes, we do leave people motionless on the sidewalk. Yes, we do talk about it with friends. Yes, we do build a reputation for taking others out. And yes, for some reason, we do love it.

Why? Well, I suppose we think that we are protecting something much more important than sisters or girlfriends. We are protecting the Gospel. When we throw a punch, it is instigated by someone who says something wrong. There are people who are hiding out, watching and waiting for others to walk the alley called “Bad Theology.” There are bullies who are fueled by their audience and are intent on breaking the noses of any and all who preach a bad sermon. Their sense of smell has been trained to seek and identify foul odors. They are heat-seeking missiles who have no other purpose but to fight.

Of course, there is a time to fight for doctrine. There is a time to correct and reprove. But that time is not a given. It is earned through years of maturity and pastoral resolve and gentleness. There is a time to bloody the nose of another, but it is not to be enjoyed and it certainly does not need an audience.

When I am tempted to pick up a pen and bloody the nose of another, I remember back to the time when I left that guy motionless on the ground. Who do I think I am? This is someone who is made in the image of God . . . the image of God. It is not a casual thing to bring charges against someone, even when they deserve it.

Think of King David. If anyone had the right to fight, it was him. He was the prophetically anointed king of Israel. But his rival Saul, a godless, prideful, lying, jealous man, full of violence and destruction, would not give up the throne. David could have started a campaign against him. He could have written a hundred blogs about all of his shortcomings, failures, and murderous plots. But he did not. Why? It is hard for me to figure out. He just kept saying that he would not lay a hand on the “Lord’s anointed.” God’s anointed? He is not God’s anointed. He has bad theology, terrible morals, and is utterly self-consumed. Why call him the “Lord’s anointed”? No one could figure it out. “God has delivered him into your hands,” they would say. “Now is the time,” they would encourage him. But David, with every reason and opportunity to stop the bleeding King Saul was causing, would not intervene. He feared God so much that he would not lay a hand on him or speak ill of him. He never even named Saul in his Psalms that were clearly about Saul.

Was David a pansy when God wanted him to flex?

Let me ask you a serious question: Do you fear people? Careful how you answer. Yes, in one sense, we are not scared of men and what they can do to us. But in another sense, we are to fear people because they are made in God’s image. James puts it this way:

Jam 3:8-10
“But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

Who do we think we are, cursing people who are created in the image of God?

For some, the criticism, the public reprimands, the polemics, and the right hooks come way too easy. For David, it was not so. He feared Saul because he feared God.

Every time I fought someone when I was young, it would attract a great audience. People would rush to see the display of inflicted pain. Fighting always gains an audience, cheers, and pats on the back, but this has no bearing on its morality. Bringing a charge against God’s anointed should bring about incredible fear. Maybe we are too mature to get into physical fights now, but from what I read in the Scripture, God has a lot more to say about the damage we can do with our words than what we can do with our fists. But often we ignore this, because it is so easy to attack others from a distance and the carnage left behind is not so visible.

I have only told about ten people this in my life, but here goes…I am going to tell thousands.  I wet my pants when I fought those guys in the parking lot that night. I told everyone I had spilled beer on myself, but that was a lie. I told everyone the foul smell was from the girl who threw up in the back seat of the car that night. But the truth was simple: I was very afraid.

Let me be a bit crass here and ask this question: Do you wet your pants before you speak against someone? If not, you need to learn how. They are God’s image. The fight may have to come, but be so prepared for it that your pants get wet.

20 Responses to “Fight Club for Christians”

  1. Michael,

    This was a triumph for the cause of Christ and I can only wish that all Christians could heed this wisdom. We need to understand what it is to be both gentle and wise, and I can only hope that the masses will hear the truth in this blog and be edified due to it. Also, thank you for your humility and honesty. God bless you brother.

    Zach

  2. Steve Meikle May 8, 2012 at 2:06 am

    The author advocates completely the wrong response. Being full or terror at the thought of doing sin X never stopped anyone. But it has driven people mad, and I am quite sure it has driven others to blaspheme the Spirit.

    Yes!! That is how serious I am about this.

    It is not that we should be terrified of speaking against person Y. It is that we should love person Y.

    And that is a totally different thing. It requires knowing God in Christ personally. And it requires repentance of sins acknowledged, not forced attempts to avoid sin.

    One is legalistic, the will of the flesh, stemming from an ungodly motive and is worthless in God’s sight.

    The other is the love of God. but then this one is so rare a that I have ever seen it.

    But i will NOT go back to the kind of pants pissing terror that this author seems to think will do anything other than destroy lives, minds, and the faiths of those so terrified.

    I am in fact horrified that such error is applauded

  3. Steve Meikle May 8, 2012 at 2:17 am

    The author also says, quite correctly, no one can control the tongue, as it says in James.

    But then what does he do? He orders us to attempt this very thing. How? By having, indeed cultivating and honouring pants pissing fear.

    If we cannot control our tongues we do not try to, lest we wreck our lives (having tried this, as did St Paul; in Romans 7). Instead we run to Christ the Lord to confess our sin, those sins that our ungodly mouths and unclean hearts indicate.

    Slipshod exegesis of the very worst kind, the author’s teaching will destroy those foolish enough to take it seriously.

    Read Galatians. Works of law do not sanctify any more than they justify

  4. Pretty interesting illustration of the post on display here early in the comments.

  5. Lisa Robinson May 8, 2012 at 5:22 am

    Wonderful! One of the things that really grieved me about the latest debacle is that one brother in Christ was put on public trial without the benefit of private clarification. Then when others joined in it just made me sad. Regardless of whether they had a legitimate beef, I think 1 Cor 6 has something instructive to say about airing grievances without trying to settle the matter in Christian harmony, privately first. So not only was there “beating up” in the public eye but seeds of have now been sown regarding another brother’s questionable Christian commitment. And we think its ok to do this, why? In the name of truth? Sometimes I get the impression that we can’t trust the Holy Spirit to do his job.

  6. Michael,
    Yesterday, I wrote that your “vomit in the hair” post was one of my favorites. Now, I can add this one to that list. I consider myself a Calvinist, but sometimes I don’t really like Calvinists because of our tendency to become “discernabloggers”. I think there is a way to point people to truth, in love, without directly attacking a brother or sister. Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems possible. I was trying to think last night if Paul ever verbally eviscerated anyone posthumously. Or Jesus.

    Thank you for pointing out the relationship between David and Saul. Thank you also for not pointing out specific examples of this sort of thing, though doubtless you had examples in mind (I know I do). Some of the examples, unfortunately, have probably come from my own keyboard. :-/

  7. Excellent post, Michael. Though I say that as one who is pretty darn close to being a full-on pacifist, so I don’t know how unbiased I am in my assessment. I think I am a (near) pacifist for the same reason I don’t get into fistfights. Try this: pick up a pen and write out a list of Things I Would Die For. If you’re like me, it would be a long list and everything on it would be noble and good and beautiful and true. But that’s the wrong question. Lay that list aside and write a new one: Things I would Kill For.

  8. WWJD? Provoke the religious often (check). Fight seldom (check).

    I am totally on board for defending the truth. But when I check the fruit of the spirit, I don’t see “strength” listed.

    There is a difference between what the gospel calls us to *be* (truth seeking, holy, righteous, strong, God-fearing) and how we should *behave* (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control).

    How many times did Jesus instruct his disciples to fight? None. He called Peter Satan for suggesting it. Jesus himself was led like a lamb to slaughter, yet walked in righteousness and strength. We need to *be* strong and courageous like Christ was. But we need to *behave* as followers of Christ.

    The Bible says the gospel IS offensive to many. So many Christians take it upon themselves to MAKE IT offensive to many. The Gospel is offensive enough – it doesn’t need our help to drive even more people away by watching us fight over every jot and…

  9. I thought that might get cut off … here’s the rest.

    … tittle.

    (I guess the cut could have been worse :) )

  10. There is a difference between timidity and meekness. Timidity is like the mouse which runs from other animals and loud noises – he stays safe, but remains ineffective.
    Meekness is like the martial arts master, who wisely withholds a punch and gives a bowl of rice to a starving thief, instead. And the thief later becomes king.
    I think Michael’s message might be that faith and love do not bow to opinion and emotion. You don’t have to like someone to love them.
    Gentleness and meekness were never in style in the world – even back in Biblical times, a “real man” was the guy who kicked butt and took names. But we are called to self-control and gentleness, as signs of spiritual power, and not just strength of the flesh. And that, ladies and gentlemen, takes courage!

  11. I loved this. I had at least a couple of fights as a child, even in high school. Though girl fights don’t seem as scary and I was never terrified like you were. I do relate to the passion that it required, however, and I believe it represents the passion that wells up in me, compelling me to defend Truth and justice.

    I am not a theologian, I leave that to my husband, Steve, but I do consider myself a warrior for Christ and will respond to falsehoods the best I can and in love.

    My ‘fights’ are against injustice. I fight with words as necessary. I have a talent and I am compelled to use it. I have defended myself, my husband, my son, my parents, my coworkers and others, when they have been confronted with evil.

    These fights are not over differences in theology, I leave that to you and to those better equipped than myself, but I do use words. Though the tongue cannot be controlled, our thoughts can be held to obedience of Christ and we can, in His strength demolish…

  12. … arguments.

    I believe we have a responsibility to confront, to defend, and not just watch as the bullies of this world beat up on those around us. I don’t like boxing, but I will stand up in the ring and fight for anyone that is being victimized. I think it takes a certain amount of passion and maybe that is derived as a child that began by standing up for themselves.

  13. 1 Kings 14:10 Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone. (1Ki 14:10 KJV)

  14. CMP,

    I fully support caution (though we could argue about the “pants-wetting” image). But if you were going to balance out this post, how would you do it?

    I love Paul’s letter to Titus for its beautiful balance.

    First, it has a focus on passionate pursuit of good works & Christ-like character–yet still emphasizes truth & doctrine, giving us the delightful image that we “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” by our lives. (Titus 2:14 may be my favorite verse: It says that Christ died to redeem us and to actually change us to be zealous for good works. Paul didn’t preach mere ticket-to-heaven theology!)

    Second, Paul tells us to “avoid foolish controversies[…]for they are unprofitable and worthless,” & to avoid people who stir up division. (Very much in the spirit of your post.) And he simultaneously says that elders have to know the Word well, & sharply rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine.

  15. Jug,

    I would say that pastoral engagement such as that has to come in the bonds of intimacy and authority. Most of the stuff being tossed back and forth over the internet in the form of rebuke and correction do not fit this mold. The one who is doing the rebuking normally does not have any position of authority (i.e. eldership) over the one being rebuked, much less the knowledge of their character and intent.

    I think of those who critisize Discoll, Piper, Mohler, and Stanley. This cuts both ways and there are no lack of examples on either side.

  16. CMP,

    Not only that, we should notice that when Paul tells elders to “rebuke sharply”, he had just described the kind of character that this rebuking elder must have: “He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered […], but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”

    Can anyone imagine that everyone engaged in rebuking is actually manifesting this kind of character?

    Imagine the difference it would make, if everyone who sees themselves as fulfilling the mandate to “rebuke sharply” was actually displaying this kind of character. If we eliminated the rapid-fire “quick-temperedness” of so much internet communication. If all of it came from people who possess a fundamentally hospitable spirit. If all of it was written with self-control and discipline.

  17. Lisa Robinson May 8, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    CMP/Jugulum,

    This is something I’ve been pondering lately. We know from scripture that there is warrant for rebuke of false or heterodox teaching, but it also is under the purview of church authority. With the Reformation, we forfeited the right for a unified ecclesial body for that rebuke. Outside of the local assembly or denominational body, where does one have the right to rebuke another outside of the context of proper church authority? The blogosphere necessarily makes that kind of messy.

  18. Steve Meikle May 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    It might be correct to rebuke false teaching in the framework of a church discipline. But the article here was posted in a public forum. Not only that but comments were allowed. The author or this website was inviting comment. Moreover, if it is the serious contention of some that the post in question was in serious error, (and I do hold it to be so, and I do it with grave seriousness) , then the comment invited was bound to be critical or even taken to be rebuke.

    If you don’t want rebuke or even the possibility of I suggest that the comments option be disabled, or, failing this, such posts as this should only be released in the environment of a local church

  19. Truth Unites... and Divides May 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I think a lot of good comes from the self-policing nature of Christendom. (And some bad too, of course).

    In fact, it seems like a good number of the NT epistles contain rebukes in them regarding aberrant teaching and false teachers.

Leave a Reply