Martial Arts and the Christian:
It is sad that we are afraid of life in many respects. We are afraid to take chances, or better put, to step out in faith. Having the great gift of life; it seems that we are actually afraid to investigate life to the full. Being afraid of life in a sense can be called being in a comfort zone of accepting life as it was handed to you by others and not necessarily God. If you live that way and do not face life unafraid, you are actually robbing yourself of many worthwhile life experiences.
Martial arts are one of these life experiences which are mystified by some and now Christians are also apprehensive about it. We should not be afraid to practice it just because something might jump on us, so to speak. Christians are more than conquerors the Bible says and yet the conquerors are sometimes afraid to stand up and take control of the life, which God gave them to live. The thing is, the devil cannot really twist your arm to do ungodly things if you stand firm, The Bible says in 1Corinthians 10:13 KJV “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it”.
To stay away from something because you are scared of it is not how we should live life. Christians have the attitude sometimes that they should stay away from things just in case… That is not Biblical. If you are not born again I will agree that you should stay away from things that can enslave you. Christians should stay away from evil and unprofitable things because we are in control of our lives and actions, not because we are afraid of them in some way, that is the Holy Spirit led, Bible way. We should also not lean on people’s opinions, whether they are Christians or not, because you really cannot rely on them to be honest and impartial all the time.
Coming back to the Christian who has a problem with martial arts, when I read what they wrote, I could understand their arguments, however most of the times it described a shortsighted view based on fear of the practice.
Let us take a Bible view of life issues:
1Corinthians 6:12 KJV “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
Is that not a pertinent scripture for our discussion? When the Bible says all things, it means all things; the word for all things in Greek there is the word ‘pas’ which means all things. We ended off with the alcohol illustration in the previous article and as I said, some Christians believe it is a sin to drink alcohol, when it is not. Here the Bible is very clear that all things, which mean of course all things, which are not in contradiction to God’s Word, are lawful to do, however the Bible shows that just because all things are lawful to do, does not mean it is a good idea for the individual. The Bible says that “I will not be brought under the power of any”, that means if you cannot control your alcohol intake for instance, it will be expedient for you to leave alcohol alone, that verse of scripture is then not applicable to you anymore for an excuse.
Is that not what responsibility is all about, can God not trust us with things that has a danger to it, but He knows we can handle it?
It looks like some people would have preferred that God kept all things that can be controlling over us away from us. Well that is not His way; in any case, if you have the Holy Spirit and you depend on Him, you will never fall. If we would apply the quoted scripture on martial arts now, it will become apparent that it will be lawful to practice, but will it be expedient? It all depends on the person who is considering the practice of martial arts. You see there are some who will be able to practice it and will never be bothered by the cultural religious background of it. However there will be some who will be influenced by what they will perceive as problematic in martial arts and those will think that Christianity cannot be reconciled with martial arts and they will leave it. Then there will be those who will even as Christians find the cultural religious background of martial arts alluring and there will be a potential that those may fall after it. There are just these types of people around and we must be aware of the types and give counsel to all of them.
Scripture to illustrate the point:
1Corinthians 8:4-13 KJV “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”
In the quoted section of scripture, we find two of the types of people we spoke about before. However the scripture describes meat offered to idols being eaten as opposed to the study of martial arts. But be that as it may we have a similar scenario here where you have some who if they ate meat offered to idols will feel that they are sinning and then has the potential to stray from what they believe, the Bible says “perish”. Then there are those who actually go and sit in the idols temple and eat of the meat offered to idols and they have no problems with it because they have knowledge of what and why they do it. The Bible actually says they “sit at meat in the idol's temple”. Now how can that be? Well, these people know God and what He is all about. They know there are no other God’s and those who actually sacrifice to these dead gods are busy wasting their time and therefore they know the meat of the animals offered, can be eaten.
The problem lies in those who the Bible say are weak. They probably think that the meat of the animals are some how cursed if they are offered to idols and should not be eaten of.
This is what essentially happens with those who practice martial arts and those who say it is wrong to do so. The fact of the matter is, the reference given about the meat offered to idols is not so appropriate since it is not like martial arts were purposed to worship idols with as the case was with the meat of animals, which were offered up to idols.
However, in the quoted section we find an admonition to those who know what Christianity is all about, that they should take care with the liberties they know they have in Jesus Christ.
Let us quote it again, “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.” This is unfortunate, but as mature Christians we should always realize that we have a responsibility to those who are ignorant of their freedom in Jesus Christ. Let me say it in plain language, if the pastime you love like martial arts cause a stumblingblock to your Christian brothers and sisters, you should stop it. That is harsh, but it is what we gain from the quoted scripture. However, there is still an option for you that would be to consciously make it your business to educate your weaker brother to understand what we have in Jesus, so that you know that those who look up to you do not fall because of their own ignorance.
This must be said though; you can never go on with what you do, knowing that it causes problems to those who are weak. You must somehow address the problem. The Bible says that you actually sin against those who are weak in the faith if you continue to do what they perceive to be sinful. Some people can really spoil your fun; however it is not worth going on with what you do if it has the potential to let your brother stray from Jesus.
Let us look at another scripture:
Romans 14:13-23 KJV “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably...
All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
Even to the Romans the issue of certain meats being eaten was a problem and immature Christians was stumbling because of it. Yet again the mature Christian is admonished to watch his step around his weaker brother and it is actually said they should rather expose their faith to God privately in a sense when it comes to things that offend the weak. The Bible says, “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God” that speak of course of things you allow yourself to do which some Christians will take offence of, however that does not speak about being quiet about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I like this part, “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” The reason why I like it is that the Bible acknowledges that there are issues between Christians where some are ignorant and where some may do what they do, however they should rather consider their weaker brothers. This would of course include the practice of martial arts.
Romans 15:1-3 KJV “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let everyone of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself: but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”
The martial arts issue is one of those issues which show the maturity of a person’s conscience before God. It is actually noteworthy that as we saw in the quoted section of Romans 14, if someone believes something to be unclean and therefore sinful to partake of, in God’s eyes it will be sin if he does what is sinful to him; however that same thing will not be sin in God’s eyes if someone else who does not consider it sinful and unclean, partook of it. Of course God knows the heart of man and you may say you believe things not to be sinful, when you know that God already showed you, you should not do it. But more than that is it not fantastic that we as humans can consider things to be sin which our Holy God does not consider sin?
I know we did not really speak about martial arts as such in this study up to now, however the issues touched on clarifies the liberty that we have before God in that it is not the practice of martial arts that is the problem, but a person’s perception of it that makes the difference.
The issue of turning the other cheek:
Some say that the statement Jesus made about turning the other cheek is anti the philosophy of martial arts and therefore martial arts and Christianity cannot be reconciled. Well let us take a look at what Jesus said and see in what context did He put that statement.
Matthew 5:39 KJV “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
First and foremost, we should realize that the discussion Jesus has here was not a discussion on self-defense and that you should allow yourself to be assaulted or murdered to be a good Christian. The context of the whole discussion here is a discourse Jesus gives about the Law of Moses and its applications. Jesus never empowered passivism as a Christian life outlook as some would interpret it, we will show some scriptures shortly.
What Jesus was essentially saying in His whole discussion of the Law was this, ‘the Law was a standard in the days of old, but now I will lift the standard higher’. Suddenly having the sex act outside your marriage bounds was not considered adultery alone, but now only looking with lust at a woman became the same as adultery. And in relation to the turn the other cheek statement, where in the days of old when Israelites got one another back in kind before the judges for any and everything, Jesus says the higher law than getting a person back was to forgive and to renounce your right to an eye for an eye judgment. In fact the Bible teaches that we should not avenge ourselves and let God be our avenger, Romans 12:17-21 “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Jesus says that we should not let violence escalate, however the discussion was never let yourself be the punching bag of people.
Let me illustrate this point, if you and somebody get into an argument and the person hits you in the face, what should you do according to Jesus, yes turn the other cheek and not to get into a fight.
Now consider this; you and your family walks along the beach and you get attacked by muggers, what do you do, let them have their way with your family and allow them to beat you to a pulp because you want to turn the other cheek? No, you should defend your family with your life. Jesus does not teach passivism and He did not say you should allow evil to happen so that you can stay in His will.
Let me quote a scripture, John 2:13-16 KJV “And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords (whip), he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house a house of merchandise”. Jesus certainly did not let His Fathers house be violated and he used force to drive the merchandisers out. In other words He did not turn a blind eye to what happened, and turn the other cheek was not applicable to that situation. We should realize that if Jesus say turn the other cheek, it meant that He considered you in control of the situation and that you can choose to turn the other cheek, in a mugging or if you are under attack, you would hardly have a chance to turn the other cheek.
Some say that the practice of martial arts is too militaristic or too spiritual, well which is it? In the first article we saw that there is nothing inherently spiritual about martial arts and now we saw that firstly, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient” means we are allowed to do martial arts, then we are allowed to defend ourselves because “turn to him the other (cheek) also”, was not a statement of how to conduct yourself when attacked, but how to conduct yourself in life when you encounter people who want to provoke you to sink to their level.
We can make some general observations concerning martial arts and especially eastern martial arts. One, we should expect that the people of the east as their western counterparts will have some kind of religion and as a matter of course their religion if they are serious about it, will permeate their lives and therefore their martial arts. Two, if eastern martial arts were religious in nature that would mean that every religious East Asian would be an ardent martial artist because of it, however that is not the case. Not every Chinese or Japanese person for instance is a martial artist, but just about everyone has some kind of religious belief. Martial arts have no part to play in eastern religion because it had nothing to do with any religion’s origin whatsoever that is a fact. Some individuals for reasons they felt was necessary, added martial arts to their religion that is all.
Colossians 2:16 KJV “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days...”
No one has the right to judge what you do as a pass time. If it is sinful they should tell or admonish you in love, then pray for you, however if it is not sinful they should really keep their noses out of your business.
We saw that Christians that does not have a real grasp on what they believe make things which are not sinful to do sinful to themselves, but these people also spoil the freedom of mature Christians who understand the new life, which God gave them. It is no wonder then that Jesus put people in positions to help us grow, I quote,
Ephesians 4:11-15 KJV “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”
We need to grow up and understand that there are many issues between Christians that are unnecessary and it causes unnecessary division amongst the brethren. The martial arts issue is just one of them. If we all made time for God and communicate with the Holy Spirit as we are supposed to do, we will find that life will become drastically less complicated and we will have radically more freedom from religiosity and man-made burdens.
Copyright 2007 Richard D Kloosman. All rights reserved
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