Paul, Boxing, and MMA


Was the Apostle Paul a fan of boxing? We can’t say with certainty that he was. But we know he understood the sport.

So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
-1 Cor. 9:26 ESV

In this passage, Paul used two sports to describe metaphorically what the Christian faith is like: running and boxing. It seems strange to me that he would use an inherently sinful sport as a positive analogy for the Christian faith. A better explanation is that Paul apparently saw a redeeming value in sports (the training and disciplining of one’s body and competing and winning a prize, to name a few) and in his mind, combat sports1 (like boxing) were honorable endeavors.

My conclusion as this pertains to modern, sanctioned MMA fights is that this generally falls under the same category as the boxing of Paul’s day (combat sports). In fact, modern, sanctioned MMA fights are probably safer than the boxing of Paul’s day. Today’s fighters wear gloves (which protect the fighter’s hands and the opponent’s face). A trained referee will immediately stop the fight if someone cannot intelligently defend himself. Doctors are ringside and can stop the fight at any time. Submission attempts can be halted when the fighter “taps” (verbally or physically or if the ref feels the fighter cannot tap) Rules are in place to prevent permanent dismemberment/injury to fighters (the risk is never zero, as with all contact sports). With all these safeguards in place, we can say that modern MMA is nothing like the Roman-era gladiator events that opponents of combat sports often inject into the discussion, where participants were often forced to “compete” against their will and often resulted in death or disfigurement.


  1. For the purposes of this article, combat sports refers to MMA, Judo, BJJ, wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, and the like.
Leave a comment


  1. me

     /  April 24, 2016

    He doesn’t Box. If you screw this one passage up, how can you be trusted with any others?


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