In jiu jitsu a distinction has developed between street and sport jiu jitsu. In sport jiu jitsu there is no striking, no groin shots, no eye gouging, and, depending on the tournament you are in, no knee locks. There is a referee, a nice cushioned mat, and a time limit. In street jiu jitsu there are no rules. Kicking, biting, eye pokes and everything else is legal because you are in the street. You are in a street fight. There is no referee - last man standing wins. There is no nice cushioned mat or a time limit. Consequently, the techniques in street fighting are different than those in sport. For example, if you come at a sport jiu jitsu person with a knife they are not going to know what to do. Their training has not prepared them from that situation. A street person will know exactly what to do and the altercation will not last long.
Unfortunately, the same distinction has developed in Christianity. Many Christians are trained in what can be called sport Christianity. Sport Christianity is nice, clean, and well packaged. There is a one hour to one and a half hour time limit. You get a nice cushioned seat. God's basic job is to bless you and to ensure you experience the American Dream.
But life is not lived on the mat or on nice cushioned seats.
Life is lived on the street.
The street is brutal, cold, and uncaring. The street does not care if you know nice little Bible verses because you are getting waylaid with depression or cancer or fear or anxiety. On the street four month old babies die; children are beaten senseless by their alcoholic parents; men and women suffer with eating disorders, anger issues, and generational curses; spouses cheat; co-workers lie. The street is filled with people and forces actively seeking to deceive and destroy. The street is ugly.
Sport Christians have no techniques, no training, to deal with the onslaught of the street. Invariably they will settle into a faith practice where they accept that while Jesus is the Son of God, He cannot help them where they are. They know they cannot deny Him, but they also know they must survive.
I suggest that sport Christianity is not Christianity. Or, at best, it is a sadly incomplete attempt.
I often find it necessary when talking to Christians and non-Christians about Jesus to separate Jesus from the church. I ask permission to set the church aside for a moment and just look at Jesus.
Jesus lived on the street.
Jesus came to fight.
Mark 1:15 is Jesus' first recorded sermon. It is believed that He regularly taught this same material. He ways, "The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe int he gospel." These are fighting words. Jesus basically says that this is the moment in history when God the Father has decided to send His Son to win the war. "The Kingdom of God is at hand," infers there is another kingdom present that is "in charge." We know that is the kingdom of darkness, led by Satan himself. 1 John 3:8 says, "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil." Jesus was sent to fight.
In His life, Jesus fought three primary enemies - sin, the world, and Satan. He fought on the street, on hillsides, in synagogues, in the temple, in homes, with His own disciples, and Jesus fought even while He was nailed to a cross. Jesus knew life is war. He fought. He trained His disciples to fight.
Being a disciple of Jesus is about receiving His victory into your life and then letting the Holy Spirit teach you how to fight. The street is not fair. God will make you strong. The street is harsh. God will give you endurance. The street does not make sense. God will give you wisdom. The street is powerful. God will give you greater power. This is discipleship.
Making disciples is about veteran fighters training others to fight.
There are rivers of love, freedom, rest, and power for you. These are promises for you from God Himself. But they come to you in the context of war. May you walk away from the sport and get into the street. Learn how to fight. If you want to know whether someone is a veteran just ask them to tell you their stories about walking with Jesus. If all they give you are Bible verses then they are not a veteran. If they show you their scars then listen to them.