The Warring Pacifist

by Donnie Bryson

We, as Christian martial artists, often call ourselves warriors for Christ. What do we mean? Do we use soul-winning sidekicks on Tuesday night visitation? Do we demonstrate motivational Hoshinsul when passing the offering plate? No. There are only rare instances where a Christian is permitted to fight. Christians are, by definition, pacifists. Jesus commanded, “resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”[1] He later told Peter to, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”[2] Christ told Pilate that, “my kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.”[3] The long sad history of conquering socio-political Christianity teaches one thing — broadsword evangelism never works. The backsliding begins the minute swords are sheathed[4].

Thus, our true battleground is in hearts and minds. Jude urged that, “it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”[5] Our true enemy is not human. Paul said, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”[6] Warriors we are. Paul told Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” [7]

Christians are that quintessential dichotomy — the warring pacifist. Moreover, we Christian martial artists, in particular, are even more puzzling to the world around us. We actually train for physical violence yet worship and adore the One who said, “Love your enemies.”[8] To some that makes us appear more like a Lewis Carroll character than a rational adult.

However, it is that odd-fitting training that has taught me to balance fighting the good fight of faith and turning the other cheek. Let me share seven truisms from the Dojang that have made me a better warrior for Christ.

Know the difference between sparring and a life-or-death fight. A friendly match can suddenly become serious when a novice forgets they are only playing a game. It is one of the first things we teach our students about sparring. It is only a game. We also train to determine the relative threat level of any situation on the street. The trained martial artist matches the response to the threat. The same, hopefully, can be said about a mature warrior for Christ.

There is the verbal equivalent of sparring. The warrior for Christ goes about discussing the Bible within his church as we go about sparring in our Dojang. No one is drawing blood. No one is going for a kill. However, the mature warrior senses a true threat from Satan. He lays siege on the walled prisons of the heretic and infidel when Satan tries to hold captive hearts. Wisdom knows the difference between the various opinions between brothers and the “doctrines of devils.”[9] Sometimes that comes, just as it comes with street-smarts, with maturity.

Don’t play with folks who can’t learn that difference between sparring and a real fight. Occasionally, we run across a student that just doesn’t get it. They are the ones that break ribs in point sparring, injure wrists in joint-locking practice, and throat kick in Olympic-style matches. It is not pleasant, but they must be ejected from class if they just cannot learn the difference between sparring and fighting. If they belong to someone else’s Dojang, we avoid playing with them. Are we afraid of them? No. We are afraid of what they could force us to do.

We run into the same personality type in churches. They are the ones that make an obscure eschatological theory a matter of salvation (Every saved person believes X). Their view is always referred to as the Biblical-view. It always contrasts with the opposing liberal view (which happens to have as many Biblical proof texts their view). They always seem to be in the cave with Elijah. They whine with him that they, “have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: ‘and I, even I only, am left.’”[10] They usually have a strong persecution complex. They cannot understand why folks in their church are persecuting them so. Why do folks resist being called stupid and ungodly so strongly?

Paul told Titus to “avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.”[11] Make no mistake — Paul was not prohibiting honest Biblical discussion. He would agree with the Psalmist who said, “I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.”[12] It depends on our goal for the exchange. If the goal is to teach, help, exhort, edify, or worship, then it is good and profitable. If the goal is to embarrass our brother so we look superior, then it is sinful and vain. Paul’s advice to Timothy should be heeded by us all: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;”[13]

Never cover weakness with rudeness, and, its corollary, never mistake courtesy for weakness. Often, the inexperienced fighter tries to cover their fears with rudeness. That is always a mistake. It never stalls the beating and often results in it being mixed with malice.

Some novice martial artists make the mistake of viewing politeness as a weakness. Fortunately, that is almost always corrected early in our training with few fatalities now in contrast to the earlier days of our craft. Martial artists are not polite from fear. The better martial artists are most often humbler, meeker, and politer than their blow-hard counterparts. Usually, but not always, those who can’t do — brag. Those that don’t brag are usually the ones that can do. Why? Most impoliteness, presumptuousness, and bragging stems from deep-seated insecurity. The braggart is trying desperately to convince himself. Those that can actually do have only to perform to prove.

This is why discourtesy is so inappropriate for the warrior for Christ. The infallible word of God is our textbook, the precious omniscient Holy Ghost is our Coach, and our marching orders were left to us from our conquering hero, General Jesus, as He ascended into the Heavens. How could we possibly be insecure?

Moreover, there is a practical side to courtesy, respect, and politeness. It is very effective. Look at the tone that Paul took with Agrippa. When Paul was brought before Agrippa he said, “I think myself happy, king Agrippa, I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.”[14] Why such a gentle tone? Paul knew wisdom in the Proverbs. Solomon said, “By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.”[15] Paul did not change his mind in his latter days. Paul told Timothy to, “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.”[16]

Just because it makes you feel better, doesn’t make it a smart move. We have all seen someone grab their leg and drop to the floor when their shin is smacked. It might make them feel better for the moment, but it isn’t a smart thing to do in a real fight. Venting is the verbal equivalent of the shin-grab-and-drop. It might make us feel better, but it is just as foolish. When the Samaritan village did not accept Jesus, James and John wanted to call down fire on them.[17] The Lord stopped them because it was contrary to their mission.

It is a wise father who knows the difference between venting and helping. Paul told the Ephesians “ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”[18] Do we want to feel better, or do we want to help? Sometimes we cannot have both.

Never close your eyes in a fight. It is so natural to close our eyes right before taking a punch. For some of us, it takes many hours of training to break that natural reflex. Unfortunately, many Christians have a similar reflect when defending the faith. An infidel will cite true facts and the inexperienced apologists will ignore what they say or, worse still, contend that those facts are false.

It is true that Jude quotes the book of Enoch, we do not have the original manuscripts (the autographs), and the four Gospels present slightly different versions of the life of Christ. Denying these simple statements of fact will do irreparable damage to our message in the mind of the infidel. We cannot defend the truth with lies. The warrior for Christ cannot mislead either by fact or by logical fallacy. We must always be trustworthy witnesses for our Lord.

However, we can lead an infidel to that all-important moment of decision by quickly admitting the difficult and deftly turning the tables on them. Let us consider the ‘difficulty’ of the different perspectives each Gospel give of the life of Christ. The lawyer and apologists, John Warwick Montgomery, notes, “the Four Gospels do not give identical, verbatim accounts of the words or acts of Jesus. But if they did, that fact alone would make them highly suspect, for it would point to collusion.”[19] In other words, judges fully expect witnesses to give slightly different accounts because they are telling the story from their own perspective. The seemingly weak point can suddenly become our strongest strong point if we study to show ourselves approved, trust God, and speak nothing but the truth in love.

A little force in the right place goes a long way. It is amazing how little pressure it takes to put someone on the ground when it is applied to the right place. Joint-locking and pressure points are the most effective techniques in the martial arts. Why? Any small defender can control a much larger aggressor with those two skills.

We should use these techniques as a metaphor for how we should defend the faith and how we go about soul winning. These techniques work because we skillfully apply force to the correct spot at the correct time. So should we as we fight for the faith. Let’s consider using this tactic on an Arian. Arians are groups (such as the Jehovah Witnesses) who do not believe in the deity of Christ.

These battles, which seem so easy to prove on the surface, usually degenerate into the verbal equivalent of an elementary school shoving match unless the Christian uses skill.

JW: “Who is Jesus?” Christian: “Jesus is God.” JW: “No, He is the Son of God.” Christian: “That is the same thing! Jesus is God” JW:”No, the Son of God is not the same as God the Father. Do you believe in one God or three?”

Here is where we can continue to go back and forth, or bring them to the point of decision if we use skill.

Christian: “So, you don’t believe in the Trinity?” JW: “No, there is one God.” Christian: “So, who or what is the Holy Ghost?” JW: “Ugh, ?..”

Our Arian friend is in a quandary. Just as we do with a joint-lock, we leave him no squirming room. He must admit the Holy Ghost is a personality apart from God the Father. He must admit the Holy Ghost is God.[20] Thus, he must concede the Trinity. This is the verbal equivalent of a joint-lock. His entire argument against the deity of Jesus hinges on the question of the Trinity. He reaches out to cast down the truth, we extend his argument, twist it in a way that he did not expect, and apply pressure to his faulty hinge.

Fight the one kicking and punching, not the one talking. We have all seen it happen. An instructor shouts those words of wisdom to a young fighter in the middle of the sparring match. The child turns around and says, “Huh?” Smack. The child learns a valuable lesson. Keep your eyes on the one that is kicking and punching, not the one talking.

Sadly, we often forget that simple martial art first-lesson. When we are contending for the faith, we often forget that we are not fighting the person in front of us. This person may be argumentative, crude, and hateful; but that person is not our enemy. Our enemy is Satan and his emissaries. Paul told Timothy that, “in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”[21] Moreover, Paul told the Ephesians that, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”[22] We need to focus our attack on the enemy, not the hostage. Often we waste valuable time kicking sheep for being lost instead of lighting fires to show them the way to Christ.

In conclusion, let us fight effectively and not, “as one that beateth the air.”[23] There is no spiritual shadowboxing. Let’s skillfully make every blow count. Just as in the Dojang, preparation is the key — not bluff and bullying. Paul told Timothy to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”[24]


  1. Matthew 5:39
  2. Matthew 26:52
  3. John 18:36
  4. I believe that scriptures teach Christians are permitted to serve in the military, on juries for capitol offences, and as law enforcement officers. The comments regarding broadsword evangelism are directly aimed at violence as an evangelistic tool (ex: the conquering of the Peruvian Indians).
  5. Jude 1:3-7
  6. Ephesians 6:12
  7. I Timothy 6:12
  8. Matthew 5:44
  9. I Timothy 4:1
  10. I Kings 19:10
  11. Titus 3:9
  12. Psalm 77:12
  13. II Timothy 2:22-26
  14. Acts 26:2
  15. Proverbs 25:15
  16. I Timothy 5:2
  17. Luke 9:51-56
  18. Ephesians 6:4
  19. The Jury Returns: A Juridical Defense of Christianity, John Warwick Montgomery,
  20. See the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-4. The Holy Ghost is a Person because He can be lied to, and the Holy Ghost is God because Peter said used lying to the Holy Ghost and God synonymously.
  21. I Timothy 4:1
  22. Ephesians 6:12
  23. I Corinthians 9:26
  24. I Timothy 2:15


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