My son and I study a Korean form of martial arts called Tang Soo Do. As with most martial arts, the highest is the black belt. The student begins with a white belt, and over the course of years students move up through the color levels until they reach black belt status. A couple of months ago we had the privilege of attending a black belt ceremony, in which we observed some of our classmates receive their reward for years of practice and hard work. At the ceremony, an interesting experience presented itself.
As we watched the students receive their new belts, we noticed that the belts were not completely black. Our instructor explained that the new “Christian” federation, in which our school was now part, had made a change. He continued:
“In traditional Korean Martial Arts, black means perfection. Therefore, when a student completes his training he becomes ‘perfect’ in his knowledge of the Art. But, as Christians, we know that we can never achieve perfection in our lives, but we must always continue to learn and journey towards perfection. So, from now on, midnight blue will be our highest rank.”
My son was a little disappointed to learn that we will never be a traditional “black belt.” However, I appreciate the reminder that, as we live in the flesh, we can never achieve perfection—we can only journey towards it, with God’s help through His Holy Spirit. We know that Christ was the only one to achieve that perfection in His lifetime, as Peter stated in 1 Peter 2:22, “[Christ] committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.”
Our society is driven by the desire to achieve perfection. We seek out the perfect career, the perfect relationship, the perfect house, the perfect body, etc. It seems that the pursuit of perfection in our lives is all consuming, yet in one area, our society seems to be satisfied with just good enough, and that area is moral or spiritual perfection. In Matthew 19, we read the story of Christ counseling the young ruler, who asks how he can achieve eternal life. Jesus instructs him to follow the commandments, and then He continues to tell him that he would need to give up everything and to follow Him, which the young man was unwilling to do. Later in chapter 22, Christ tells us that the two great commandments are to love God with all that we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Jesus Christ makes it crystal clear that spiritual perfection means being willing to obey God to the point of losing everything we have. Does that mean we will each be called to literally give up everything we own for Him? Most likely, no. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, He promises not to place on us a burden that we cannot endure with His help. As with all loving fathers, our Heavenly Father will teach, push, encourage and, if necessary, discipline us—to help us reach our full potential, not to destroy us. He knew from the beginning that, as carnal beings, we will never achieve total perfection. That’s why He allowed His Son to be sacrificed to atone for our sins. That’s why He gives believers the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us continue growing toward perfection. For that, I’m thankful to know that, although there may be no “black belt” for me in this life, He’ll be with me on my spiritual journey to perfection. I’ll trade that black belt for an imperishable crown any day!
Learn more about how we can grow towards perfection in obedience to our God by reading the booklet The Ten Commandments.