God and MMA

A Mixed Martial Arts reminds me of God.

Ephesians 2:4-10, ESV

Devotional Thoughts

I like watching MMA fights. MMA or Mixed Martial Arts is a freestyle form of boxing that employs a range of skillsets. You may wonder why a pastor would enjoy watching two people pummel one another. Frankly, I prefer that human beings take out their aggressive feelings with gloves rather than weapons any day.

One of the ways an MMA match can conclude is by one of the fighters “tapping out.” When a fighter is placed into a submissive hold that is too painful or dangerous for the fighter to continue, tapping out becomes the only option. At such point, the referee concludes the match.

The right to tap out of a fight is what the athletic community calls a mercy rule. Mercy is granted to a competitor to avoid additional anguish or embarrassment. As much as I agree with the spirit of the mercy rule, I find the designation a misnomer. Mercy implies a leniency that is undeserved. In the case of tapping out or the mercy rule, the losing side has been more than deservedly punished. To borrow a well-worn metaphor, a pound of flesh has been exacted. The loser has paid a steep price for entering the ring.

The Scriptures declare that you and I are recipients of God’s mercy with one caveat. Rather than punishing us for our collective rebellion against God, God assumed the punishment we deserve through the sacrificial death of Christ. The pound of flesh exacted came from Jesus’ body instead of ours. The consequences we deserved were directed toward the Son.

We are recipients of an otherworldly kind of mercy. However, God has also challenged us to replicate God’s merciful actions toward one another. When others come against us, hurt us, or defame us, God charges each of us to bear the pain and suffering of their actions rather than retaliating in kind or dish back to them their just desserts. Such actions are the “good works” God has prepared for us to do in this broken world (see Ephesians 4:10).

Please understand, however, that mercy is not an easy gift to offer. In fact, the brand of mercy God is seeking of us requires a power beyond our human capabilities. Such mercy requires the intervention of prayer. So for today, may our collective prayer be this:

Dear Lord God, grant us the ability to love others even when we are offended and offer kindness to those who act thoughtlessly toward us. May the mercy you give to us through Christ be made available through us to others. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Photo by Bad intentionz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15493734