I Will Punch You in the Face (With a Pure Heart, of Course)!

With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent (Ps. 17:4).

I have been troubled over the years at the interest by many Christians in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), whether as a spectator or participant. More recently my concern has been brought to the forefront by the involvement and promotion of female fighters. It seems to me that, culturally, females are the last link the in chain when it comes to issues of morality. What I mean is this. When it comes to the profaning of marriage, violence, indecency, crudeness, brutality, brutishness, etc. the female in society has generally been the last in line to adopt the vulgar and obscene.

Troubling enough UFC has the interest of many Christians. Youth parties are thrown around events. Christians gather and celebrate violence over chips and dip. But is it good for the Christian mind? Is it good for me, according to God? Does it promote holiness? Do I want anything in my life as a Christian that would promote anything other than that? After all, there are no morally neutral acts.

It has always amazed me how quickly Christians throw up the “free in Christ” card regarding entertainment (and particularly with the UFC) as if the Lord hasn’t spoken about what should go into our ears and eyes, which ultimately leads to our hearts. When it comes to the sacred subject of entertainment most Christians consider this as an area left up to one’s individual conscience to determine. We entertain ourselves, many times, with the things God explicitly speaks against. This is both blissful ignorance and willful disobedience. It is blissful ignorance because many are ignorant of what God says in His Word regarding the things we let into our minds. It is also willful disobedience because each man’s conscience is fashioned by God and indicates to us, more often than not, the things that please and displease God. Conscience is not inerrant, however. It is constituent to man, and thus affected by the fall of man into sin (Gen. 3:6). It must be informed by an inerrant source for guidance and correction. That source is Holy Scripture.

Philippians 4:8-9 is one place of many which speaks to what we ought to allow into our minds. It speaks to what God commands us to think about.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:8-9).

My argument is simple. God is King. He is the potter, you are the clay. He has sole, absolute rights over you as His creation. This means He gets to tell you what you ought to think. Your mind is not your own. It is His. He gets to approve and disapprove. But here’s the catch.

Just like with the Ten Commandments, any command of God given to His creation is not some arbitrary rule handed down by a skull-thumping, brow-beating, oppressive ruler, but by someone who is perfectly holy and perfectly delights in Himself. In other words, His laws are laws of delight, because God is delightful. He cannot approve of anything of which He does not first find in Himself. “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8). Here is Christ, the Law-giver (Isa. 33:22; Jas. 4:12), delighting to do the Father’s will. Why? Because of what was in His heart. What was in His heart? God’s law! His very own law! This is God delighting in Himself. God commands humanity made in His image to not bear false witness, because God is truth (Jn. 14:6). God commands His creation to not commit adultery, because God is a faithful husband of one wife, the Church (Song 4:7). You get the point.

Notice what the Apostle Paul says in Phil. 4:9. He says, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things…” (Phil. 4:9). In other words, there was no inconsistency in what Paul thought and what he practiced. He couldn’t be truly entertained by the movie Saw III and find consistency in the act of walking away from that movie directly to participate in a pro-life rally. The nature of the two would have been dichotomous at the core. Practice what you preach, many say? Practice what you think, Paul says! Paul would not be entertained in his mind by a category of things that he himself would not practice. This is the essence of holiness. A uniting of the heart (Ps. 86:11) for a single purpose – God’s purpose of Christ-likeness.

Can you ask the question of UFC (and any other entertainment for that matter) whether or not it passes through the filter of true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, or worthy of praise? Will you? Could you punch someone in the face with a pure heart? Can you watch that act and call it entertainment? It is praiseworthy to shout over your opponents bloodied face in victory? Would you commend such practices to your children? Is it pure? Does it contain the qualities of moral excellence? Paul makes no disconnection between the things he thinks about and the things he practices. Do you? Are you avoiding the ways of the violent? We are commanded to do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). How does what you watch glorify God?¹

UFC fighters are doing with their hands, what we every man does with their heart – they build their kingdom with violence. At the root of violence, whether you pay prime time prices to watch it or whether you are the fighter aiming your violence at the other opponents face, is selfishness, pride, and ultimately idolatry. Violence is a lust for power. Violence is a throne issue in the heart. Who rules? Violence says “I rule!”

Sadly words like discipline, character, dedication, and competition are attached to this violence as if this somehow justifies the practice. In the minds of many this shaves off the rough edges of what is actually going on in the ring. But aren’t we commanded to be careful how and what we build into our lives as Christians (1 Cor. 3:12-13)? If a person dedicates their life to learning a violent trade does that somehow make it acceptable simply because he has given time and attention to it? Does culture get to define, for the Christian, what violence is and what it isn’t? Shouldn’t that be determined by the word of His lips (Ps. 17:4)?

Even if you’ve never watched UFC, the point of the article is this: Are you guarding your heart by the Word of His lips? You are not “free in Christ” to watch whatever you want. Your heart is too precious for God to leave that category up to you.

Watch over your heart will all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23).

With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent (Ps. 17:4).

¹ For a great read along these lines see John Bunyan’s, The Holy War