Summary: In spiritual warfare there are no rules, no rounds, no countouts, no one to stop the fight. Whoever fights the hardest, the meanest, and lasts the longest will win. There is no draw. You either win the battle or lose the battle.
This week I caught a glimpse of the MMA. Has anyone seen these matches? They are brutal. They take place in a cage where two opponents fight three to five rounds. Every round is 5 minutes in duration with one-minute rest period in-between rounds. Non-title matches must not exceed three rounds. Title matches can be sanctioned for five rounds. In other words in most fights you have up to 17 minutes to either knock out your opponent, beat them so senseless they can’t continue, or cause them enough pain where they give up.
To accomplish this you can use a variety of martial arts moves along with more traditional styles of fighting. These methods are boxing, muay thai, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, judo, amateur wrestling, catch wrestling, karate, teakwood, and sanshou/sanda. There are 5 strategies to winning; sprawl and brawl, ground and pound, submission, clinch fighting, and score oriented.
The injury rate for this sport is 228.7 per 1000 athletic participants or almost 23%. Most injuries were head injuries followed by wrist/ hand. Most frequent type of injuries was lacerations followed by fractures and concussions. There have been 7 deaths since being sanctioned in 2000.
As violent as this sport is it did not compare to the violent sports witnessed by the apostle Paul in Rome. One of the most prominent buildings in Rome was the Palestra. Built to resemble a castle it was a place of combative sports. It was open during the daylight hours to those who were training for sports entertainment. There you would find boxers, wrestlers, and pankratists.
The boxers were not like the ones we see today. Boxing was much more violent. The participants were required to wear helmets, not headgear, to keep their heads from being caved in. Few boxers ever lived to retire from the ring.
The boxing gloves were ribbed with steel, serrated like a hunting knife, and spiked with nails. In public they were recognized by their deformed faces, ears, and noses. Some would have an eye missing that had been knocked out during a fight.
There were no rules but one. You could not clinch an opponent’s fist. There were no rounds. The fight continued until one opponent surrendered or died.
Wrestling was a bit less violent due to being preferred by the wealthier class. It was a part of their son’s education. It was done in the nude and most of the violent techniques were not allowed.
The most violent sport was pankration. It meant “more power than anyone else.” It was kind of like a tough man contest. The idea was to prove you were tougher than any one else. Therefore there were no rules. You were permitted to kick, punch, bite, gouge, strike, break fingers, break legs, or any other horrible thing you could imagine. Again you won through defeating your opponent or killing him.
You may be wondering what this has to do with scripture and spiritual warfare. Let’s look at Ephesians 6:12. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
When Paul wrote this he used the Greek word “pale” for fighting. This was the root word for the Palestra, the castle of combat. He wanted us to understand that in our fight against demonic forces there are no rules. Anything goes. All methods of attack are legal. And whoever fights the hardest, whoever fights the meanest, whoever lasts the longest, will be the winner in that particular confrontation. There are no rounds. There are no count outs. There is no one to stop the fight. We will win the battle or we will lose the battle.
He also stated that our battle is not with flesh and blood. We have talked a lot about the battle field being for our mind and you might ask “Isn’t that flesh?” That’s true. But our battle is not against our mind. The battle is for our mind. Satan seeks to control our mind and therefore control our flesh. But we have a weapon to insure that he cannot manipulate our flesh.
Romans 6:11 “So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.”
Have you ever tried to get a dead person to fight you? I hope the answer is “No.” Reality is you cannot get a dead person to respond. You can kick them, spit on them, and curse them to no avail. They are dead. When you are being attacked verbally by someone recognize the power behind those attacks. Remember you are alive in Christ and dead to the power of sin. And the dead do not respond.
The dead cannot be tempted, seduced, or deceived. Satan is unable to manipulate us because we are alive in Christ and dead to the powers of Satan.