Should Christians Participate in MMA, Boxing, Football, Gambling, etc

Posted: April 28, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Ethics, Fatherhood, Questions & Answers, Sports


I was recently asked the following question regarding Paul’s illustrations involving boxing:

Just b/c the apostle paul made references to boxing/fighting doesn’t necessarily meant he ‘watched’ them, right?  He could of just been knowledgeable of the art or strategies in the sport not necessarily promoting or suggesting it’s ok or good for a christian to engage in it?

My answer is as follows:

That is possible, but unlikely. For Paul to be making a secondhand illustration of something that he never observed would be very unlikely. At the same time, he may have witnessed it, used it as an illustration, but isn’t necessarily approving of the actions involved within the illustration (boxing). Jesus said that he would come like a “thief” in the night. He is not approving of thievery, but using it as an illustration.

This thing with Paul’s sports illustrations is that it is likely suggestive that he was indeed a “fan” of some sorts. He uses them on several occasions and assumes that his readers know what he is talking about…Sports were big in Roman and Greek culture. He also uses the illustrations positively in that he is encouraging Christians to emulate the runner, to be focused like a boxer, etc. As such, I can’t help but think that Paul is highly respectful of the athlete’s discipline, etc. if he uses it in a commending sense to the Christian’s conduct.

Paul’s illustrations are unrelated to the questions of whether Christians should participate in boxing, running, etc. Or whether Christians should be soldiers, farmers, etc, which are some other vocations he mentions as illustrative for Christian conduct. As such, one should be careful in emphatically saying that such illustrations serve as Paul’s stamp of approval for Christian participation.

Lastly, good cases have been developed that Christians shouldn’t seek a vocation or recreation that unnecessarily benefits from another’s harm, even if it is voluntary and understood by the injured party. Gambling is one such example of a recreation that is prohibited by such a principle. Some would say that this principle applies also to boxing. Some would say that it fails to love neighbor and doesn’t seek the welfare of our neighbor.

My take is that this is a conscious issue…regarding boxing. Football involves tackling, which increases the risk of harm, but very few Christians have questioned the morality of Christian involvement in such a sport. I guess the logic is that the intent to hit someone and pull them to the ground is not to injure but to play by the rules. It may involve bodily harm, but that isn’t the intent…so football is okay. As for boxing, many would argue much the same thing. The intent for most boxers isn’t to harm or kill their opponent, but to play the sport. Obviously boxing will necessitate bodily injury, but it isn’t the intent. Some Christians may think that such engagement is wrong, and they may very well be right….and as such, they shouldn’t participate. It isn’t for the lighthearted. I think another guiding principle should be concern for one’s own being…meaning that if a boxer is married with children (not the show), then one really should consider whether risking their well-being in their vocation is good stewardship. This would go for many other vocations as well, including some that are clearly permissible for Christians to work (construction, police, etc). If undue stress is placed upon wife and children because of one’s vocation, then such a person would be bound to seriously consider something else.

Pastorally, I offer guidance and counsel. I also must pray for those who engage in dangerous activities. For most such vocations, society benefits…as in policework, military, etc. They put themselves at risk for a greater good. I don’t see that so much in boxing, fighting, etc. Their physical wellbeing isn’t suffering for a greater good…it’s interests are monetary. But many would say that it is for love of the sport which brings two voluntary contestants together in such an exhibition of skill. I would lastly say that there is responsibility in a civil and just society to take proper means to assure the safety of such contestants, as much as possible. I have been impressed by the guidelines established for MMA. I just recently saw a fight where the referee stopped the fight after 9 seconds because a punch apparently knocked a guy unconscious to the floor. The victim wasn’t happy that the fight had been called, but it was the right decision by the judge. What does concern me about today’s audience is that it almost seems like they want to see blood, they want to see someone crippled, etc. If there were no restraints by the government, the “free market” could very well devolve into the gladiator battles of old, where men would fight to the death. Some would be willing to risk their very lives for the prospects of a huge pay day, as viewers would pay top dollar to see someone killed in the ring. That is clearly something no Christian should participate in or support. I pray that God will continue to restrain the sin of our society.

  1. I don’t know if you’ve been to any hockey games, but whenever we’ve gone to the Steelheads, the crowd is almost on edge, waiting for a fight to happen. We had front row seats one time, and a “pretty good fight” broke out right in our faces, and I had to later repent of my attitude- I had really gotten into it and was hoping to see the guy get pummeled. What’s interesting at a hockey game is the music- very heavy stuff which really gets the crowd in a frenzy. Definitely a lot of testosterone at the rink!

  2. mimi says:

    ok, so isn’t that ‘anointed fighter’ pic is using that scripture verse out of context??

  3. Rakeback says:

    I Think christians should never participate in gambling because it is considered as a sin in Bible.

  4. Lisa says:

    Did John Piper write this article?

    • I’ll take that as a huge compliment because yours truly wrote it, and that it would even remotely be likened to Piper is humbling, unless of course you were going to crticize it as being teh worst Piper article you have ever read 🙂

  5. As both a Christian and a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, I think one thing that a lot of people miss here is that people take risks in a lot of jobs that have nothing to do with sports. Look at that show Deadliest Catch. Those guys are in it for the money, but how many people would say they were sinning?

    Also, one thing people miss seeing in these types of sports is how many professional athletes bring glory to God through their careers. Rich Franklin who has had a successful run in UFC has given glory to God the whole way–and has brought the truth of Jesus to people who might not have listened otherwise.

    This is honestly one of those things where I think people lack balance. They go either to one extreme or the other in their thinking. Yes, we should not be out there being head hunters and trying to injure people, but at the same time, we shouldn’t ban the entire practice because there are some people who take it too far.

    Of course, this is all my opinion, lengthy though it was!! 😉

    • Thanks for your thoughts!!!

      I would only state that the analogy of working a dangerous high risk job as similar to MMA is not something I would agree with.

      It’s one thing to work a job that might be risky for the employee and another thing to participate in MMA when you are actually inflicting pain upon another.

      As I said, this is a conscious issue, and I need to learn more about the safety, etc. If I participated and killed someone with a lethal blow to the head, I don’t think I could live with myself or accept the applause and praise from those who root for such violence. You might bring up football and the possibility of causing such an injury in tackling a player. I realize that there are degrees of similarities, but there is still some substantial difference between a fully padded player with a helmet to that who exposes all their flesh in the ring.

      I agree with you that Christians can bring glory to God and am grateful for the testimony of certain fighters. I just pray for their safety and all those who participate. That we are agreed on, I think.

  6. oliver says:

    For a Christian, Jesus is the example we are to follow. Making a mistake, or sinning out of temptation, is acceptable because you understand that its’ wrong, but you were just weak against the devil’s forces, God will forgive you, and you will evolve out of trouble.

    promoting violence, even in sport, and believing it is right, is not a mind that God can work with because you fail to understand the teachings of Jesus.

    in short, would Jesus do MMA? “love thy neighbor as thyself” “if a man slaps you in one cheek, turn the other.” “love thy enemy.”

    I think not. read the Bible and stop being ignorant. get an enlightenment. anyone who understands the holy spirit knows that violence would only be acceptable to protect the life of yourself or your family or friends. There are few if any Christian qualities in MMA UFC.

    • oliver says:

      the Bible also says “God hates a prideful stare.”

      do you think you can enter battle, one that is not based on your survival, or any injustice against you, but to garner ther respect of your fellow man, without a prideful stare on you face before, during , or after the fight?

      in psalms it says, “do not envey the violent man, and choose none of his ways.”

      people who are giving glory to God through fighting for sport, are simultaneously ignoring God’s word. does it really seem like a real Christian?

      even if you did attract someone to God, you’re at the same time teaching them values that are contrary to God’s law. It’s called ignorance, if you didn’t notice , it runs rampant in men.

      “not all who call LORD LORD will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    • Oliver, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think you make some very good points.

  7. oliver says:

    Paul also said “the battles we(Christains) face are not against man, but against the dark spirit forces.”

    the Bible also warns against wreckless activities saying something about it being a shame for a man to die before his time because of foolish vanity.

    Jesus also said, perhaps one of his most important teachings, “do not seek the praise of men.”

    because in seeking respect from men, who are foolish and wicked, we do stupid evil things. fighting for money and admiration and glory, THIS is what Jesus is warning us against.

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