Jiu Jitsu has a simple belt ranking system, in my opinion. There are only 5 belts: white, blue, purple, brown, and black. On the Jiu Jitsu belt is a black rectangle where stripes are added to show a student’s progression to the next belt. Normally, a student would get 4 stripes on his/her belt before promoting to the next belt color.
When it is time for a practitioner to get a stripe for a belt, a coach might apply the stripe at the end of a class or a test, when everyone’s attention is gathered. This is the way one would expect this ceremony to go and it might be the most pragmatic way to do it.
The other day, my coach awarded a stripe to another student in the most interesting and (in my opinion) the most honorable way that I can imagine. At the end of each class, we usually “roll” or spar with one another in a controlled, live grappling drill. During one of these sparring sessions, as the soon-to-be-stripe-getter was rolling with our coach, our coach added a stripe to his belt, in real time. The stripe was applied to his belt without him knowing it. Another student had to inform him that he had a stripe on his belt at the end of class before he was aware of it.
I thought that this was a neat picture of how we can notice our own advancement in the Christian life and how others can draw our attention to God’s work within us. It is one thing to gather more information about the Christian faith, to become more familiar with how a Christian should live. It is quite another thing to embody the Christian life. It’s one thing to imagine that “one day I could be a person who forgives from the heart like God forgives me.” It is another thing to have a member from our community pull us aside and tell us that they are inspired by how we have the capacity to forgive.
James would say it this way, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17) The word for “action” is ergon, a term used to describe “business and employment.” James would say, “Faith without action is out of business.”
May we be people who give honor to those who practice, not just chat, about the Christian faith.
May we have a faith that is in business.