Muhammad Ali and the World’s Views
Muhammad Ali is now dead. He lived 74 years but spent many of his latter years as a semi-invalid with Parkinson’s disease. Finally, he died a week ago with his funeral being two days ago, on Friday, June 10, 2016.
As I read of the overwhelming crowds at his funeral and the thousands who lined the streets as the hearse passed by, along with the views expressed, I was impressed with the way the consistent Christian views people, situations, problems, events, and relationships—in contrast with the way the world views such things.
For instance, Peter writes to his Gentile readers, mentioning some of the sins in which they had formerly engaged (1 Peter 4:3), then he writes, “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you” (v. 4). In other words, when the Christian refused to partake of the same sins, wickedness, perversions, and dissipation that characterizes the people of the world, because of this, the world will condemn us. They just won’t understand God’s perspective—which should be our perspective!
As I read over the lengthy account of Ali’s funeral, I see that the newspaper has labeled their main article, “World bids farewell to The Greatest” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 11, 2016). Regardless of the high praise heaped upon Ali by notable figures of the world, we must never forget that this world renowned boxer constantly referred to himself as “The Greatest”—and sadly even many people in the world so label him. The heading went on to say, “100,000-plus pay respects; Ali is eulogized as ‘a messenger of peace.’” We must recall that Ali has been hailed as the greatest boxer in history. He was involved in a most violent, harmful, and brutal “sport” that maims and hurts the opponent—and thereby brings the monetary prize to the winner. Ali himself received so many hits to the face and body that he spent many years at the end of his life with the dreaded Parkinson ’s disease! He was willing to pummel his opponents to the extent that he received many millions of dollars in the process.
Interestingly, God’s Word says that an overseer or leader in the body of Christ (and this would include every Christian) is not to be “pugnacious” (1 Timothy 3:3; cf. Titus 1:7). It means, “a striker, a brawler” (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). A. T. Robertson says that it literally means, “not a fighter” (Word Pictures in the New Testament). Lenski says that this is one “who never fights, who is not of the fighting kind” (Interpretation of First Timothy). Ralph Earle says that the word literally means “abstaining from fighting” or “noncombatant” and used metaphorically, it would signify “not contentious” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary). C. Michael Moss says that the term is a prohibition of violence, and it indicates that the person “is not to be a pugnacious man” (The College Press NIV Commentary on 1, 2 Timothy and Titus). Ralph Earl, in Word Meanings in the New Testament, says that Xenophon, the historian, says that it is used in the sense of “abstaining from fighting, noncombatant.” All of this means that “the world” is extolling Ali for something that God finds objectionable, wrong, and sinful! The way of the world is diametrically different from the ways of God (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9).
The article described the massive crowd of 100,000 and the speakers who lauded Ali’s life. “The world said goodbye to The Greatest on Friday, showering affection on Muhammad Ali during a fist-pumping funeral procession through the streets of his hometown, followed by a star-studded memorial service where he was eulogized as a fiercely charismatic breaker of racial barriers.” Interesting that Ali began as a radical Black Muslim who hated whites, but then he noticed that Islam accepted all nations, colors, and cultures—as long as they acknowledged Muhammad as God’s last and greatest prophets, and bowed the knee to Islam and the Qur’an. Thus, he left The Nation of Islam and became a devotee of traditional Islam of the Middle East.
Billy Crystal said in an address to about 15,000 people, “He was a tremendous bolt of lightning, created by Mother Nature out of thin air, a fantastic combination of power and beauty.” Ashia Powell, who waited to see Ali’s hearse pass by, said, “He stood up for himself and for us, even when it wasn’t popular.” We are reminded that such praise is not of a person who acknowledged Jesus as Lord but who totally rejected Jesus as God’s Son and our Savior. It does show how the “world” admires one whom God refuses to admire at all!
The brash and bragging Ali drew crowds to the Louisville Center. It was “packed with celebrities, athletes and politicians, including former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Orrin Hatch, director Spike Lee, former NFL great Jim Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger, soccer star David Beckham, Whoppi Goldberg and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar” (ibid.). We may be “known by the company we keep,” and those who praised Ali at such a time show us his own character—and those whom he admired! Bill Clinton, perhaps one of the worst and most immoral presidents we’ve had, was there. Various athletes were there. These liberal and lost people only tell us more about Ali and his wishes and views!
Many of the comments were shocking and revealing! Crystal said, “We’ve seen still photographs of lightning at the moment of impact, ferocious in its strength, magnificent in its elegance. And at the moment of impact it lights up everything around it so you can see everything clearly” (Ibid.) Although he was joking, we can see the amazingly perverted praise that was heaped on Ali, when he described the fighting and hitting and maiming that occurred in the boxing arena, something that surely grieved and angered God, the Maker of our body and soul (Romans 1:18)!
The event even brought Michael Lerner, a Jewish Rabbi, to the stage. He gave a “fiery speech” and railed against “anti-Muslim bigotry.” Another notable person was President Barack Obama. Although he could not personally be present, he said, “Muhammad Ali was America. Brash. Defiant. Pioneering. Never tired. Always game to test the odds. He was our most basic freedom: religion, speech, spirit” (Ibid). The President meant this as praise, but ask yourself: Is it godly to be “brash”? Is it righteous to be “defiant”? Is it right to see anything positive in freedom of religion—when that religion will take not only Ali but a billion other souls to hell, apart from their heartfelt repentance?
Yes, it is true: The “World” is utterly opposed to the righteous ways of God. And the ways of God are utterly opposed to the world! As Proverbs 28:4 says, “Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive with them.” Let’s praise those whom God considers as righteous—and let us be willing to expose and condemn those who place themselves against the Lord!