Grace Martial Arts Fellowship began in 1990, went online with a website in 1995 and began publishing newsletters to the Christian martial arts community in 1998.
Because of the quality of information found in those early newsletter articles and the fact they are no longer available online, we’ve decided to re-publish many of them in the coming weeks and months. Our hope is that a new generation of Christian martial artists will be blessed by the wisdom of those who were on the path before them.
Welcome to the GMAF Newsletter! We pray it will encourage you in your Martial Arts and Outreach for Christ.
THOUGHTS FROM THE MASTER
“Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear, in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”
“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour 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 Apostle Paul
“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”
WHAT’S CHRISTIAN ABOUT CHRISTIAN MARTIAL ARTS?
Someone recently asked us that question and it led to a lengthy and interesting discussion. That was not the first time we’ve heard the question. Many Christians, including pastors and youth and children’s workers, wonder about the wisdom of teaching martial arts to Christians. They have even bigger concerns about including martial arts in a church or evangelism program. Many Christians do not believe Christianity and martial arts can co-exist. They ask how something as gentle as Christianity can be part of a violent fighting art.
We will share some thoughts about answering this question in the next three GMAF newsletters. We would also love hearing your ideas about how to address this concern. We will include your thoughts in upcoming newsletters.
“Let’s begin by looking at Christianity. What is it? Christianity is TheWay, The Truth, The Life. It is Christ. It is Christ in us. We are not Christians because we attend church or because we repeated a prayer after someone years ago or are followers of some way of acting or believing. We are Christians because we are in Christ and He is in us. How does that happen? How does someone go from not being in Christ to being in Christ? How does someone change from not having Christ in them to having Christ in them? What do we have to do to make that happen?
Nothing! We do nothing. God does everything. The Apostle Paul wrote Christians in Ephesus that they were “dead” in trespasses and sins. He wrote that all people are by nature “the children of wrath.” Dead people don’t do anything to gain life. They are dead and under the wrath of Almighty God. The only way a dead person can become alive is if a Living Person with Power over Life and Death gives the Gift of Life to the dead. That’s what happened to Christians. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Sounds great, but what did WE do to get this Great Gift? “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Nothing! We did nothing. My first Greek teacher, and every Greek teacher I’ve studied since, told me the grammatical construction of Ephesians 2:8 includes both “grace” and “faith” in what is “not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The Grace that saves me belongs to Christ. The Faith that saves me belongs to Christ. Christ’s Grace and Faith awaken the “dead in trespasses and sins” and lead them to believe in Him. We have nothing of which to boast. Christ did it all. He showered us with His Love and Grace and was Faithful to do the Will of His Heavenly Father. We trust what Christ did and said and receive the Gift of Eternal Life freely. That’s why it’s Grace (unmerited favor) and not earnings (what we deserve).
Paul wrote the Romans that not one person from the human race was righteous, “no, not one.” He said no one “seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Wait a minute! I know lots of nice people who do good things for others. All I have to do is pick up a history book and read about all the wonderful people who have graced the face of the earth with their good deeds and law-abiding behavior. How can Paul say no one “doeth good?” What does he mean by that? Paul means that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” God’s Law is not how we know whether someone is good enough to go to Heaven after they die. God’s Law shows everyone they are not good enough to stand in God’s Presence, let alone remain with Him forever. Isn’t that a pretty hopeless thing to say? Not at all. Read on. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Christianity is all of Christ. He did everything. We did nothing. Christ receives all the glory. We receive all the spiritual blessings. I’d say that’s a great deal.
Even though we did nothing to deserve or earn salvation, God gave it to us “freely.” What we have now in Christ is “spiritual identity.” We were spiritually dead prior to God’s Gift of Eternal Life. The best a dead person can do is have a physical identity; a body lying in a coffin. They have a name, an address, a history, but they have no “real” identity because they are dead. They have a tombstone identity, but no living identity. Paul visited Athens, Greece centuries ago and came across a group of people who were searching for their true identity through philosophy, learning and knowledge of the world. They were constantly looking for some new idea because they had found no identity, no satisfaction in anything they had heard before. Paul addressed those gathered at the famed Mars Hill and said this about Christ Jesus: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being.” That is the primary essence of Christianity. It is all about The Person of Jesus Christ. Everything else surrounding our relationship to Christ is secondary. That includes what we “do” for Him. Our identity is not in what “we do,” but in who “we are” in Christ. Luke, the great Christian historian, gave us a beautiful picture of that truth in the story of Jesus, Martha and her sister Mary. Jesus visited the sisters in their home. Martha was very busy serving Christ and others with Him (“But Martha was cumbered about with much serving”). Mary sat at Christ’s feet and listened to Him speak (“heard his word”). Martha finally had enough of her sister’s inattention to the details of serving Christ and other guests and complained: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'” What a powerful lesson about the primary thing, the needful thing, in a disciple’s life. First and foremost we are “in” Christ and He is “in” us. Service is important, but it is secondary to Christ-relationship. We first, last and always “belong” to Him. In Him we live and move and have our being.
Christianity is not gentle in the way many people think of gentleness. Christianity is not weak. It is not afraid. It does not look the other way when wrong is done. Christianity is Christ living His Supernatural Life through us. That is a Strong and Courageous Life. But didn’t Christ say “Blessed are the meek, merciful and peacemakers?” Yes, He did. Well, then, how can a meek, merciful, peacemaking Christian take any part in fighting arts? That question, while well-meaning, comes from a misunderstanding of Christ and of what we call martial arts.
Christ is, was and will always be a Great Warrior for that which is Right. Who destroyed the earth and all but seven people with a horrible flood because of the terrible sins of the human race? Christ Jesus our Lord. Who destroyed hundreds of thousands of Israel’s enemies through bloody battles because they were infected with sin and opposed the chosen of God? Christ Jesus our Lord. Who will destroy millions of people at the Battles of Armegeddon and World End because of their allegiance to sin and Satan? Christ Jesus our Lord. Christians who see Christ as a mild-mannered religious leader Who would never do harm to anyone in the name of righteousness and justice are not seeing God’s Son clearly. He is a Mighty God capable of Great Terror and Destruction upon those who oppose Him.
Christ is “Balance.” He is Perfect and Balanced in all He does and says. He is Meek and Merciful. He is The Peacemaker. He is also The Almighty God of Heaven Who spoke the world into existence and will speak it out of existence one day. Christ had the Power to destroy every soldier who dared arrest Him. Christ demonstrated a small piece of His power when He answered “I am He” and the soldiers fell backward to the ground. Christ could have called angels to destroy everyone in Jerusalem, but He didn’t. Christ went to the Cross of His Own Will and Determination because that was the Way, the Truth and the Life for His future “children of Grace.” Christ has All Power and knows how to use it. Christ is the Great Protector and Defender of His people. He prayed to His Father that He had “kept” (tereo – preserved, protected) His disciples. Christ asked His Father to “keep them from the evil.” Paul wrote the Thessalonian Christians that God would “keep” (phulasso – guard, protect, keep safe) them from evil. Paul wrote the Corinthians that True Love “beareth” (stego – protects, preserves by covering) “all things.” Christ, Who is Love, Protects. He also Defends. Isaiah wrote that God would send Israel a Savior and a “great one” (riyhl – defender) “and he shall deliver them.” The Old Testament teaches us that Christ “defends” His people and the cause of the fatherless and widows. Christ’s Nature is to Protect and Defend the weak and needy. He has used many ingenious methods in doing that through the millenia, but His Nature is unchanged.
Many people, some of them Christians, also misunderstand “martial arts.” They believe it is a “fighting” or “killing” art. Martial arts is a “protecting” and “defending” art. The primary purpose of martial arts is to “stop conflict.” The spirit of a martial artist is to stop conflict and defend those unable to defend themselves. Soldiers and police exist in society to “protect and defend” the innocent. Most soldiers and police officers hope they never have to use their skills to injure or kill another human being. They learn many ways to stop conflict without hurting people. Martial artists do the same thing. We train in a variety of defensive skills. So why do some Christians have a problem with Christian martial artists when they don’t have a problem with Christian police officers or soldiers? Many Christians have told us it’s because of the Eastern influence on martial arts. Others have said it’s because of the emphasis martial arts has on teaching “maiming and killing” techniques. Whatever the reason, some Christians think we’re wrong in what we do to practice, teach and train others in the martial arts. How do we respond? What do we learn from these concerns?
NEXT MONTH: Defending Like Christ
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