As I child, I loved Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The only coloring book I still remember owning was a Power Rangers collection as thick as a phone book. As a young boy I loved to play fight and invent invisible enemies I would defeat with my wickedly awesome fighting skills. My parents saw this as a stage and, sure enough, they were right.
Despite my young obsession with the Power Rangers, I have never understood the tremendous culture surrounding mixed-martial arts (MMA) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). I was a bit surprised and taken aback, then, to learn that there is a faith-based line of MMA clothing and gear headed by Jason David Frank, a former Power Ranger.
The clothes, which feature slogans like “Jesus Didn’t Tap,” “Blood, Sweat & Prayers” and “The blood I shed is nothing compared to the blood you shed for me,” include men’s and women’s t-shirts, hoodies and fighting shorts. The company even sponsors many MMA fighters.
The idea underlying the line of clothing is that Jesus, though He suffered immeasurable pain, did not “tap out,” but saw His fight through to the end for our sake. A new spin on an old theological truth that appeals to the UFC audience – this is good, right?
I was surprised to learn there are many Christian MMA fighters who are excited about the opportunity to represent their faith in the ring. Certainly MMA audiences should hear the Gospel and be given the opportunity to reflect on how faith can intersect with their daily lives.
I struggle with the juxtaposition of the Lamb who was slain and the violent, bloody world of MMA.
The people of Israel expected the Messiah to be a warrior hero who would take up a sword and drive out their Roman oppressors. In that spirit, they cried “Hosanna!” upon Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Instead, Jesus’ blood, sweat and tears mingled in the ultimate act of submission to God when He prayed, “Your will be done.” Given the opportunity for violent retaliation, Jesus resolutely continued in His non-violent submission to God’s will, even telling His disciples to put their swords away.
The good news of the Gospel turns the values of the world upside down. Those listed among the blessed in the Beatitudes are not the prize fighters, the belt winners or the champions. Instead, they are those who are downtrodden, rejected by the world, with little left to offer other than their hope in the good news of the Kingdom of God.
No, maybe Jesus didn’t tap out of His fight for our sake. Yes, He shed more blood for our sake than we ever will. Yet, that does not mean that we should proactively seek out the opportunity for bloodshed. At the very least, perhaps we should leave Christ off the fighting shorts.