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A New Kind of UFC: Monks vs. Missionaries

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Would a monk or a missionary win in the octagon of godliness? While the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) may seem far from the sphere of the sacred, indulge me for a moment or two with this crazy thought.

On the one hand you have the monk, totally devoted to spiritual things. Early morning prayers and late night vespers make him a formidable force for the sacred. He meditates on the Word and can wield it like Friar Tuck swung a staff. He knows how to pray in Latin and give up sin for Lent. Hours of prayer don’t make him squirm. He eats intercession for breakfast and meditates on Scripture for lunch. He’s got no time for dinner because he’s too busy with acts of contrition. For the monk it’s more about being than doing.

Don’t tap out of this article just quite yet because, on the other side of the octagon, is the missionary. He has calluses on his hands from all the gospel tracts he’s distributed. Before the fight even starts he’s sporting a black eye that he received from sharing his faith with an atheist. But the missionary wears bruises like trophies of honor in the quest for lost souls. He doesn’t hide away in some monastery. Instead he charges into the thick of the battle and wages war with Satan for the souls of men. In his mind it’s more about doing than being.

Okay, let’s call the fight before it starts because this scenario is utterly ridiculous.

You and I both know that monks don’t fight missionaries in real life and that being doesn’t fight doing in the Christian life. As the ultimate apostolic-missionary-monk wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” 1 Corinthians 15:10.

Paul understood that to be on his game he needed to be covered in the grace of God (prayer, meditation, daily declaration of dependence on Jesus, etc) and that he needed to go out and fight for souls (preach the gospel, make disciples who make disciples, etc.) In Paul’s world what gave him the strength to be such a powerful missionary was the inner spiritual disciplines he practiced as a “monk.” It was his prayer life that unleashed divine strength into his preaching ministry. It was his private walk with God that gave his public ministry ultimate fighting power.

It’s not monks versus missionaries after all. It’s more like monks on a mission.

Let us pray. Let us mediate. Then let us kick butt against the forces of darkness.

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