By Bob Hiller –
Ronda Rousey has lost! Goliath has fallen! The UFC’s unstoppable super-star has fallen to the foot of Holly “Holy” Holm. (I don’t know if that is her nickname, but I feel MMA could use some Neil Diamond flare.) Rousey, not one to feign humility, came into UFC 193 as arguably the most intimidating fighter in the world. Though she knew her opponent’s plan of attack, she still believed she would come out victorious. Vegas agreed, setting the match at 12-1 in her favor. Much like little shepherd David’s opponent Goliath, Rousey had a habit of chewing up her opponents and spitting them out. But then our underdog, our David, Holly Holm, the preacher’s daughter, entered the ring and slung that smooth stone of a foot right at poor Goliath’s head. Rousey fell. Defeated.
Rousey’s defeat has reminded me of the sports metaphor I have just illustrated and, incidentally, despise: the David and Goliath metaphor. You know the story: a weak, underdog opponent (David) goes against the odds and finds a way to defeat a far superior, seemingly invincible force (Goliath). This metaphor is littered all over stories in sports, movies, and even everyday life. Rocky defeating Apollo Creed, the 1980 US Hockey Team beating the Russians, the 2007 Colorado Rockies beating the Boston Red Sox in the World Series (well, we would have loved that story), this is the stuff dreams are made of. Heck, I bet you’ve even heard a sermon or two with a title like: “What are your Goliaths?” Everybody seems to love David the underdog (though, it seems to me in the current cultural climate we don’t like the victory of the David as much as we enjoy the defeat of Goliath…something for another blog, I suppose…).
But this is why the use of this metaphor drives me nuts: David was never the underdog! Sure, Vegas probably had Goliath 10-1, but to view David as a long-shot (pun intended) is to miss the point of the story in a rather dangerous way. In fact, if I may make a rather big leap here, the misunderstanding of this story is indicative of the way the church misunderstands her role in the world. Let me explain.
See, in the story of David and Goliath, David is never an underdog. Though he may have looked weak in the eyes of the world, the story leaves you no doubt that the victory will belong to the shepherd boy. Why? Because David has the promise of God attached to him. David has been chosen by God to lead Israel, and God is not going to abandon His chosen king. No, God is going to fight for him and his people. In fact, God fights through the weak shepherd boy against the “unconquerable” Philistine and, in so doing, shows how He uses the weak and foolish things of this world to shame the strong. The story is not about an underdog’s victory; rather, it is about God hiding in weakness in for the sake of His people. David didn’t think that if he could just get Goliath where he wanted him then he’d be able to fling the stone right between his eyes. Instead, he trusted God to be faithful to His promises.
This is where I fear the church is going wrong. There seems to be this fear among American Christians that we are losing some sort of cultural foothold and so, in order to regain it, we just need to get the culture back where we want them. The church is trying to fight Goliath with his own weapons (ugh…see even I get sucked into allegorizing…sorry). So, she gets involved with the political process, lobbies in Washington, makes movies that display her values, develops her own “safe” pop-culture, and lends her advice/opinion on every possible cultural issue she can all in an effort to conquer the world. The problem is that the church has Goliath envy. She wants to have power and influence. She wants her own victory and has thus stopped trusting that the Lord has already won the battle.
But, what she, that is, we are forgetting is that God has not ordained such avenues for the church to accomplish His work. She’s been enlisted in a battle that is already won, regardless of the cultural landscape. What is more, it is a battle that was won in the weakest and most foolish way: bloody death in the enemy’s hands. Our weak Shepherd wore no armor and carried no weapon but willingly offered up His life in death. He suffered defeat and thus won salvation. So, the church, instead of wearing Saul’s armor into battle, is to go out like David, armed with faith alone. She is to go into battle like Jesus, not with the tools of the world and some hope that her skill will win friends and influence neighbors, but rather, with some good news to announce: the forgiveness of sins. She is called to suffer in the eyes of the world and thus conquer.
We in the church are foolish enough to believe that a 78 year old man with a poorly orated message from a 2000 year old book does more damage to the devil’s reign than any big budget Christian film. We are promised that a handful of water will spread the reign of God effectively (if I must use such a word) than any public policy. We are foolish enough to believe that a stale wafer and a sip of wine contain the body and blood of a crucified Jew who we claim is our God. The work He does in that meal does more to sustain us against all the hordes of Satan than any Christian rock and roll festival. It is in the place of weakness we call the church that God is doing the most damage to the devil’s kingdom.
God works through the foolish, weak things of this world. He’s found in them. You don’t know God and His power until you see Him bruised and bloody on the tree, suffering under the Law’s judgment for you. His victory was in His loss. His power was in His weakness. Thus, the church, like David, is no underdog needing to fight with the world’s weapons, but a weak, foolish communion whose victory is promised and secure in our Lord Jesus Christ.