Precursor – I have written many of these before I started this blog. Below is one of them I pray encourages.
Growing up in the 80’s I can say that some of my heroes were the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris and, to a much lesser extent, Van Damme. There movies were always watched with a few friends and it was never long before the coffee table was moved to the corner and the furniture rearranged, creating our own make shift octagon.
Life always seemed to imitate art in those days with the only difference being that the injuries were real. My record was often 1 – 0 when sparing with my friend but almost always dropped to 1 – 1 when his little brother got involved. Mike was always willing to go farther than I was, resulting in many a painful loss and lesson for me. Things didn’t change in my early twenties either. Flying over a couch or pool table seemed to be common place when getting together with buddies from the rugby team. I can still hear my wife as well as a few of the girlfriends yelling something to the effect of, “Your twenty something years old” or “What the heck is wrong with you guys”. I guess you’re never too old to test yourself or learn a lesson the hard way.
Fast forward and MMA(Mixed Martial Arts) is something that I’m very much a fan of today and as a Christian, I probably shouldn’t say that as I wouldn’t want to be known for advocating violence. Avoiding a debate on the subject, I will say I certainly respect a person who dedicates their life to a discipline or skill set and also has the desire to test their development and progress. Like boxing, MMA in its purest form is about just that, putting your training to the test to see where you stand.
Training and promotion always dominate the months leading up to a fight, with a whole host of variables threatening to derail it. As one would expect, the environment does create for its own set of interesting characters. It really has become a world of heroes and villains; resulting in the lead up to a fight being just as much, if not more entertaining than the fight itself. I marvel at the prefight investment made when compared to the length of the fights themselves. A recent example of this was the Aldo – McGregor fight. A fight that was over a year in the making due to an injury to Aldo during training. Needless to say, a solid year of back and forth smack talk and fight promotion, lead this to be the most anticipated fight of 2015. All the talk was of this fight being a war, but to everyone’s shock and amazement it was over in 16 seconds, with McGregor coming out the victor.
With all that goes into preparing for a fight, one can only imagine the feeling of victory mixed with the relief of knowing the hard work was not in vain. Even more than that, one can only imaging the heartache that accompanies a loss. The critics can be ruthless for those not able to walk the talk, especially when much talk has been made. A sharp critique Jesus made of the religious leaders when questioned as too why he didn’t follow the traditions of Jews of his day; a warning we would do well to heed in our present day. In his response he states the following in Mark 7 v 6 – 10:
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
A more graphic example of the above can be found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians regarding those professing that circumcision was still a requirement for salvation. Galatians 5 v 11 – 12 reads:
Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
God’s distain for those providing lip service; those with of a double mind; neither hot, nor cold; those whose actions don’t match their words can be found all through scripture. With God, it is never about the sacrifice; it is and has always been about the heart. God reveals his heart to us and for us in Jesus. For us Christians, it should always be understood that it is never about what we do as believers and followers of Jesus, but the state of the heart from which we do it. A sentiment echoed to those in the letter written to the Romans. Romans 2 v 28 – 29 states:
A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
With New Year’s now upon us, many resolutions will be made as to what we will do or change in the coming year. With the state of the world domestically and globally, I state mine while recommending a noble resolution to the reader. For the year 2016, my resolution is to love better. As a Christian it is the characteristic that should identify us the most; not just in present day society but also with regards to our relationship with our Father in Heaven, as outlined in 1st John 4 & 5. More than that, in the gospel of John love is issued as a command by Jesus when engaging those around us; a command not selective in its deployment or audience. 1 Corinthians 13 v 1 – 3 states the following in regards to the value of actions without love:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
What lasting value is anything we do if our hearts are not right? Love lasts! I say it again, our love is what lasts. Of all the things we could do or change in the coming year; being resolute in our love for Jesus and from there, our neighbor, I cannot think of a better motive or position to move from that would glorify our God in Heaven while at the same time impacting the world around us as our light shines before men, through more than just words.
In conclusion, a quote from theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758),”The only mark of genuine spiritual maturity and ministry effectiveness is the outworking of agape – a self-giving love for God and others”.
God Bless – Sean Bosse