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Is boxing a sin? What do I do about turning the other cheek?


Thank you for your very interesting question about sport, violence and retaliation.

It is good for us to look after our bodies and do what we can to look after them. There is much emphasis given by governments and public bodies to promote sport as it keeps the population fit and healthy. There is a biblical truth here too, that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and therefore we should look after them. Many diseases and conditions can develop as a result of an idle lifestyle, something which is unfortunately easy in today's office environment. Sport, therefore, can be a good thing.

However, all things of the earth can become an idol in our life. Even sport, as good as they can be, can take our priority and take our attention away from almighty God. One of the Ten Commandments is "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3) and sport should not be before God. If someone is in the gym twice a day, only talks about sport and spends all their free time working toward a competitive goal, this is not what God desired; He should be our focus. Jesus emphasised this when he said we are to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" (Luke 10:27).

Personally, as a runner, I have had to make decisions not to run some races because they are on a Sunday. For me, the priority is my life with Christ, which includes attending the Sunday service, and it is my hope that the same is for you too.

Therefore with all areas of life, including sport, you need to evaluate whether or not it is right for you to undertake the sport. With boxing for example, you have to weigh up potential benefits with possible negative consequences. This is something only you can do with God's help. Pray for his guidance.

But test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). If, after testing, you have a clear conscience regarding boxing, then by all means feel free to take it up. If not, then lay it down. Once again, this is your decision alone to make, with God's help.

You mention about turning the other cheek. Clearly, as a boxer, this is an important question for you: if you are to win in boxing, the idea is not to let your opponent hit you twice! It is important that we look more into this verse, which helps us in other areas of our life.

I believe the verse you are referencing is when Jesus says "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:38-39). The context here helps us to understand the truth of what Jesus was saying. Jesus wasn't saying that we should allow ourselves to be beaten up by not defending ourselves. Rather, these verses were to do with retaliation and revenge.

In a world where people want to get back at others, often delivering more and worse than they received, Jesus' words are truly revolutionary. Notice that Jesus talks about a slap, rather than a punch. A slap, in Jesus' day given with the back of the right hand, was a way of showing an insult to someone. However, if you were to turn the other cheek, it would force the offender to slap with the palm of their right hand or the back of their left hand, both of which were an offence to the offender. By following Jesus' actions, you would be shaming the behaviour of the offender without escalating the violence.

Clearly, this doesn't apply to boxing, but there are still principles that you can follow so that God may be glorified in your training.

It is possible for God to be glorified in the way you approach sport, even something like boxing. Through your generosity, willingness to encourage and your attitude toward competition, people may notice there is something different about you. This could be a wonderful opportunity to talk to others about the good news of Jesus.

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).

Throughout the Bible there are many sports metaphors that are used to help us in our walk with Christ. Paul encourages us by saying: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Here, Paul is saying that our Christian life requires discipline, effort and determination, just as sports do.

Therefore, in your life, just as you might in your sports life, but all the more in your Christian walk, be purposeful, disciplined and make sure that you put every effort in your Christian walk, to the glory of God.

In summary, sport can be a good thing, but must not become an idol in our life. Only you can make the decision whether or not to take up a specific sport. Turning the other cheek was Jesus' way of bringing a result to violence without in turn resorting to violence. Our Christian lives are to be disciplined, and that through our Christian life we may give glory to God and speak to others about Jesus.

Here are some additional Bible verses for your consideration:

  • 2 Thessalonians 3:11
  • Matthew 5:38-42

I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video

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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

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