Should Christians Even Learn Martial Arts?

There was a good question posed in the comments section of my article A Faith That Fights. As I was using an example from my son’s Mixed Martial Arts class to illustrate the idea of theological fitness, Neo asked:
Should Christians train their children to fight? Or does this just make them better equipped to more quickly turn the other cheek?
This of course comes from Matt. 5:38-39. Do these words from Jesus forbid Christians from defending themselves from intruders and attackers? This is important, because we then have the implications of whether a Christian can be in the military and fight for their country as well. Even in Scripture we have what may appear to be conflicting views on this topic. For instance, we have Paul teaching us to submit to government whose authority is appointed by God, and to uphold justice to “execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Rom. 13:5). But then we have him saying in his letter to the Corinthians that it would be better for them to be offended and cheated than to take a fellow believer under the law to the court system. And we have Jesus telling the Pharisees to render to Caesar what is his, but as we see in the verses above, in his Sermon on the Mount we seem to be called to something much deeper than the law requires. All of creation is under the common grace of God’s sovereign rule. And yet we can’t help but notice that God’s rule is much different in the common sphere of everyday life than it is in the holy kingdom of the church. The governments are quite distinct. In the spiritual kingdom, we know God’s rule as a redemptive one in Christ. But we notice in the government of the secular world and its accompanying social establishments, God rules with different means and purposes. Instead of seeing him rule as our redeemer, we see his attributes as the creator and maintainer. Christians are citizens of both Christ’s redemptive and common kingdoms, and the implications of being included in the covenant of grace make life much more challenging for the Christian in some ways. However, this is meant to be a benefit to our unbelieving neighbors, not a threat. Paul is encouraging us not to sue a fellow believer because the world is watching us. The church has its own government, in which it is to rule and discipline its members for the purpose of reconciliation. In the spiritual realm, justice has already been served and grace reigns. If another professing believer is unwilling to submit, in most cases we are to accept being cheated over displaying sibling rivalry to unbelievers who are watching, and to whom our Christian witness will speak for or against the power of the gospel. However, I certainly want to include a disclaimer that there are obviously more severe cases in which discernment and wisdom would lead us to the civil government for protection and prosecution (and in which the profession of the perpetrator is in serious question). So in the Sermon on the Mount, we see Christ speaking of just how radical his redemptive kingdom looks to the outside world. And yet, Christians are also citizens of his common kingdom justly ruled by the sword. While we always have awareness of our status as citizens under God’s redemptive kingdom of grace, we also live in the tension of the “already/not yet” of this age and the age to come. And so we do live in a world corrupted by sin and are free to protect ourselves and our neighbors from harm. This is actually a form of loving our neighbor who is made in the image of God. And so as a practical application, heck yes I think it is better than okay to equip my children with the means to protect themselves should anyone try to harm them. Did you know that every 40 seconds a child goes missing in the United States? That is why I so appreciate the instruction that my son was given in his MMA class (shared in this article). Furthermore, a good Martial Arts class is going to teach more than self-defense. Children can be exercised in honorable virtues such as discipline, discernment, respect, fortitude, handling confrontation in an appropriate way, and perseverance to name a few. They also learn how to avoid conflict and look for escape as their main priority. Of course, we need to be sure and pursue instruction that teaches these virtues and not enroll in a class that promotes egotism and empty bravado. A proper understanding of Christ’s rule in his two kingdoms takes grace and redemption very seriously, and rejects pacifism as a Christian application in the civil realm.   *Some excerpts of this article were taken from my book, Housewife Theologian. *Here is a helpful breakdown of statistics on sexual assault from Justin Holcomb: The Truth About Sexual Assault