In the classic movie “On The Waterfront,” former boxer turned dockworker Terry Malloy, portrayed by Marlon Brando, grapples with internal conflict amid the violence and corruption dictated by the ruthless union boss, Johnny Friendly. Haunted by regrets and unrealized dreams from his boxing days, Terry finds himself entangled in the union’s corrupt practices. The pivotal moment arises when Terry confronts his brother Charley, who, under pressure from mobsters, orchestrated Terry’s downfall by manipulating him into throwing a fight—a decision that shattered Terry’s boxing career.
During this emotional confrontation, Terry delivers the iconic line, “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” The profound regret expressed in this moment reflects more than just the loss of his boxing career; it also reveals the broader impact on Terry’s sense of identity and self-worth within the harsh reality of the corrupt waterfront environment. This critical moment serves as a catalyst, prompting Terry’s moral awakening and fueling his determination to challenge the corrupt system, ultimately steering him towards redemption and the pursuit of justice.
The story of redemption is central to the gospel message, and as redeemed sinners, we are called to contend earnestly for the faith. Just as Terry confronted corruption on the waterfront, Christians are called to confront the manipulation of false doctrines within our faith community. To entertain or ignore these deceptive teachings will ultimately lead to the downfall of those who fall prey. The present-day church is ‘throwing the fight’ against false doctrine and corruption, and, as if written for today, the Epistle of Jude admonishes, “Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people” (Jude 1:3 NLT).
Today, among these distortions, there’s a growing pressure to accept practices contrary to scriptural teachings, particularly the acceptance of sexual immorality through the normalizing of adultery, fornication, and more recently, LGBTQ behavior. This call for vigilance echoes the importance of standing firm against teachings that deviate from the truth revealed in Scripture. Jude continues, “I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). In response to this threat, Christians are urged to defend the integrity of their faith, remaining vigilant against manipulative ideologies that undermine God’s Word and distort the essence of biblical truths about morality and righteous living.
To be a contender for one’s Christian faith involves a commitment to defending and upholding the principles of God’s Word. The apostle Paul, in his letter to Timothy, encourages believers to “Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you” (1 Timothy 6:12, NLT). This is not something we can do on our own but is accomplished by submitting ourselves moment by moment to the Spirit of God who resides in all believers. Contending for the faith requires allowing the Spirit to prepare and strengthen us through prayer, the study of God’s Word, and actively engaging with other believers for accountability and encouragement. Without such preparation, we will find ourselves thoroughly pummeled when confronted with spiritual warfare. Peter warns believers to be vigilant, writing, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT). God has given us a great gift; the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies and transforms us into the likeness of Christ, and by His power, we are not only contenders, but are fully assured victory.