Into the ring

Do you have to go Church to be a CHRISTIAN? Let’s find out.

All of us I dare say will have at some stage watched a boxing competition on television. Those of us who have served in the armed forces will almost certainly have watched live boxing matches and may even have participated in one personally. The nearest I have come to boxing was Milling during

basic training. Milling is a test of physical strength, courage and controlled aggression where soldiers are given a set of boxing gloves, matched with an opponent of similar weight and height and told to fight for two minutes. We had no boxing ring, just a make- shift enclosure formed by four wooden gym benches surrounded by cheering soldiers. There was no prior coaching. The PTIs assumed that we knew what to do. Although the bruises have gone, I still remember the

experience even 40 years later.

As an Army Chaplain and member of the officers’ Mess in all the regiments I have served, I have attended Regimental boxing nights on several occasions especially with Infantry regiments. These young soldiers, often novice boxers have trained hard for several months and on such a night represent their companies or squadrons in the ring.

As well as the referee and ring-side judges, each boxer has an official called a corner- man, who could be their coach or trainer, but not always. The role of the corner-man is to provide their boxer with water between rounds, a towel, first-aid if necessary, coaching advice, but above all support, encouragement and motivation.

A good Corner-man will shout into the ear of their boxer no

more than two or three sentences like, “Don’t use everything you’ve got all at once.” “Use the centre of the ring to box and push him to the ropes.” Or, “Come on you’ve got this!”

The last thing a boxer would want to hear from their corner-man is, “He’s going to eat you alive” or worse still, “You don’t have to go into the ring if you don’t want to!”

Our Gospel reading is set against the background of Simon Peter’s unhelpful ringside comment to Jesus. Jesus was about to face the biggest fight of his career, his impending passion, suffering death and resurrection in Jerusalem. He was about to face the super heavy weight champion of the world, the prince of demons himself, cheered on by the elders, chief priest and teachers of the law and the last thing he needed was to hear Simon Peter say to him, “Never,

Lord!”“This shall never happen to you!”

Simon Peter meant well. He had just recognised and declared Jesus to be the Christ and now his boxing champ was talking about dying. No way!

It must have come like a slap across the face when Jesus snapped at Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely

human concerns.” What? Jesus was calling his own corner-man “Satan.” Why?

Someone or something was trying to throw the match. Jesus’ opponent for the coming competition was using Jesus’ own corner-man like a match fixer. We learned last week at our retreat that the Hebrew idiom for discouragement is to “Drop the hands.” Surely this has a direct connection with self- defence like boxing? If a

boxer allows their guard to drop in the ring they will soon suffer the consequences. The last thing Jesus needed to hear was, “Not you Lord. You don’t have to step into the ring if you don’t want to!”

Goodness we know from his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane how little he wanted to step into the ring, but he knew it to be his his Father’s will and had trained for the fight all his ministry.

Jesus goes onto to declare in vs 24-25, that not only must he step into the ring, he expects us to follow his example and to be willing to step into the ring too.

We sing the hymn, “Fight the Good fight” without fully realising the consequences of doing so. How do we prepare for such a “Good fight?”

What tips and tricks do we take with us to ensure that we don’t drop the hands?

Along with words of discouragement, the last thing a boxer needs in between each round is to hear is a long and complex coaching discourse from their corner- man. They are panting from exhaustion, feeling dizzy from repeated blows to the head and body and blood is coursing around their veins quickened by adrenaline and rage. They need quick, sharp, helpful hints not a lecture,

My idea of drawing a parallel between our scriptures today and a boxing match came not from reading the gospel, but from reading the New Testament passage. As I read Roman’s 12 it sounded so much like tips and motivational coaching advice from a corner-man in a boxing match.

Imagine yourself before the bell, adrenaline pumping and feet dancing while you strike out with short preparatory jabs into the air. St Paul calls

out from the blue corner, “Love must be sincere.”

“Hate what is evil.” “Cling to what is good.”

“Be devoted to one another in love.”

“Honour one another above yourselves.”

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.”

“Be joyful in hope”

“Patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

“Live in harmony with one another.”

“Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”

“Do not be conceited.”

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”

“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.”

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.”

The bell goes, you step up to face your opponent and having touched gloves and heard the referee shout “box”, you hear your Corner-

man shout from the right hand of the throne of Grace cry out, “Well done my good and faithful servant!” That voice is none other than Jesus Christ, world champion.

The identity of your opponent will vary. It could be temptation, a specific sin, a bout of serious illness or another kind of challenging life situation. Whatever it is you will need the training and support of the Church and

the motivational drive of Christ to succeed.

I suppose you could try not going to Church and still call yourself a Christian, but without hearing advice like that we find in Romans 12, the support and motivation of Christ as your Corner-man and the steely determination to follow his example and command, we will not get very far in the ring.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to content