When I first saw the bible verse on the wall of the Mixed Martial Arts
(MMA) gym I though “great these guys are believers”. The gym wall has in large black letters “Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.” Psalm 144:1.
I was overjoyed by the fact that these guys had so much respect for the Word of God that they put it on their wall as a reminder of the One who gives us the strength to live. A reminder that what is impossible to man on his own strength is possible with God and his strength.
Mt 19:25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
How disappointed was I when I realized that the verse was not on the wall to remind us that we need Christ in order to have eternal life, that he did it all for us, a free gift, not of works or to remind us that we should not rely on ourselves but should rely on our Lord.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Here I was thinking, life, salvation, submission to our Lord, King, Commander in Chief, while they were thinking “that sounds cool.” You see, just like the killer in the movie “Pulp Fiction” selectively misused the word of God to scare the people he was about to kill, our gym also misuses the word of God and places it out of context in order to inspire it’s fighters to prepare. (Disclaimer: I am not endorsing “Pulp Fiction”, I saw it a long time ago and in my humble opinion it is a movie that glorifies violence for the sake of entertainment).
The gym is great MMA gym, I have learned a lot about boxing, grappling, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, etc…, but as a spiritual training center, well it is lacking to say the least. You see, I naively assumed that because God’s word is prominently painted on the wall, the guys in the gym were Christians and would behave as such. I mean, why else would you put the word of God in your gym? Well, after innumerable F-bombs, curse words, improper conversations, locker room talk, etc... I was brought back to the reality that because someone says he is a Christian, wears a cross on his chest, has a Jesus bob-head on his dash, a cross tattooed on his chest, wears a Jesus didn’t tap shirt, selectively choose which verses to follow and which to dismiss, and goes to Church when convenient, i.e., when there is nothing better to do on Sunday morning, does not mean that he is a believer or a true follower of Christ.
The reality is that people use God and the word of God as a lucky charm, nothing less and nothing more. In the same manner you see people wear beautiful gold or silver crosses around their neck while blatantly and purposely sinning. Shameless, at least take the cross of your chest so you don’t stumble others. For example, here I am talking to my neighbor. He is recently divorced, living with a yet to be divorced younger girl, and no they are obviously not married. Now, I have nothing against my neighbor, I try to love him regardless of his lifestyle, as Jesus has commanded. But as we talked sports, all I could do is focus on the expensive designer gold and silver cross necklace prominently & proudly hanging from his neck. On the outside of his shirt of course, so all could see.
It made me cringe to think that he wears a symbol of Christ dying for his sins while blatantly & purposely living a sinful lifestyle. Did I mention the yet to be divorced live in girlfriend wears a fish necklace, you know the fishermen of men type. Pun not intended. By the way, don’t get me wrong I am a sinner, I mess up. But there is a difference between messing up and blatantly & purposefully living in sin while displacing your meaningless symbols of Christianity.
No wonder non-believers, atheists, agnostics, and followers of other religions, think Christians are all just a bunch of hypocrites. No wonder people question the veracity of the Word of God. How can an atheist or agnostic believe there is a real God when the people that allegedly follow him (you know the ones who wear the Cross on the outside of their t-shirts) don’t seem to believe it themselves. I mean, if they truly believed God’s word they would follow it, obey it, right? Am I crazy to think this? I mean, if you believe in something you would endorse it, follow it, and promote it. If you believe in a product, you would use the product as directed, right? Sure, even people who believe in false concepts follow them blindly, just ask Al Gore!
So why do “Christians” use God as a lucky charm. I mean, if they don’t truly believe in Him to the point of obeying his word, then why bother to wear a cross, why bother to have God’s word written on a wall.
It seems, that Christianity in America has reached the same level as Judaism did with the Pharisees. The Pharisees believe they were saved because they were descendants of Abraham. Americans seem to believe they are saved because they were, cue Bruce Springfield, “Born in the USA”. The Pharisees believed that God would accept them because of their religious actions, i.e., sacrifices, outward appearances, selective application of God’s Word, dress code, etc... Americans believe God will accept them because “God is good”, God is love, they go to church when they can or better yet are members of a church, they listen to Christian radio, wear a cross, are generous in a disaster, self sacrifice every once in a while, selectively apply God’s Word, and have a fish sticker in their car. Oh did I forget to mention sometimes wearing a Christian themed T-shirt? (Ok, I admit it, I got a few of those. Three words “Truth-Soul-Armor" look it up!)
God clearly wants obedience. Not the appearance of obedience, but actual obedience, devotion, straight from the heart.
Ps 51:16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart-These, O God, You will not despise.
Anything else is plain unacceptable.
Mt 15:7 "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.9 And in vain they worship Me,…”
Let’s go back to what started my rant, the MMA gym. Ok, so having “Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.” in a gym where they train you to fight sounds cool (I admit it’s pretty cool), but that in and of itself does not make it right. You see misusing God’s Word minimizes its importance, its truth, it throws a blanket over the light.
The whole Psalm 144 reads:
[A Psalm of David.]
Blessed [be] the LORD my strength, which teaches my hands to war,[and] my fingers to fight:
My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and [he] in whom I trust; who subdued my people under me.
LORD, what [is] man, that thou takes knowledge of him! [or] the son of man, that thou makes account of him!
Man is like to vanity: his days [are] as a shadow that passes away.
Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.
Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.
Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children;
Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand [is] a right hand of falsehood.
I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery [and] an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.
[It is he] that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.
Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand [is] a right hand of falsehood:
That our sons [may be] as plants grown up in their youth; [that] our daughters [may be] as corner stones, polished [after] the similitude of a palace:
[That] our garners [may be] full, affording all manner of store: [that] our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets:
[That] our oxen [may be] strong to labour; [that there be] no breaking in, nor going out; that [there be] no complaining in our streets.
Happy [is that] people, that is in such a case: [yea], happy [is that] people, whose God [is] the LORD.
When the occasional fighter wannabe (by the way I classify myself as a wannabe) reads the first verse of Psalm 144 on the gym wall he probably thinks: “yeah, God (that would be the version of God that he conveniently invented; you know the one that lets you do whatever you want but still will let you into heaven because deep inside you really are a good person and after all God is love so he won’t judge you too harshly) will bless my hands, he will help me train and win fights, awesome.”
Yet Psalm 144 is not about us, but about GOD. How he is our goodness, our fortress, our high tower, our deliverer; our shield. The Psalm is about how even though we are nothing, worthless sinners, this Almighty Creator, this Holy God cares about us. About how he has given us a salvation we do not deserve, protects us, and provides for our needs when he should just let us die. The Psalm summarizes that joy comes from knowing the Lord and putting your trust in him. If the wannabe fighter actually understood what the Psalm is really about, he would not say “God is giving me the strength to fight and win”, instead he would go on his knees and bow before the one who gave him, life, health, salvation, and thank him for the ability to walk, let alone fight.
God is not a lucky charm, God’s word is not to be used as a pre-fight pep talk. David wrote Psalm 144 as a King who had fought wars for God. A warrior who acknowledged that God had given him the victories, not his training, nor his abilities. David’s actions were not for game or sport, but part of God’s plan. David’s actions were not all glorious as they carried burdens and consequences, i.e., he could not build the Temple because of all the blood he spilled. Yet we take David’s words of worship & devotion and like a meaningless cross on the chest of a faithless “Christian”, we turn it into a slogan for a gym.