A Karate Kid Devotional: The Life of the Father

Britt MooneyBy Britt Mooney12 Minutes

Devotional #1: The Fatherless Generation

Karate Kid was the brainchild of writer Robert Mark Kamen, a karate enthusiast. The movie made Ralph Macchio a star and gave us an amazing performance by comedian Pat Morita. It is a karate movie full of heart and meaning, which is why it is still considered a classic and watched by people today.

Also, the movie has received more attention in recent years due to the successful Netflix series “Cobra Kai,” which has satisfied the nostalgia of old dudes like me and brought in new young fans like my kids.

The movie begins with an introduction to Daniel LaRusso and his mom as they pack up in New Jersey to move across the country to California. We don’t see a father. In fact, we never really get much of an explanation for why Daniel doesn’t have a dad around.

For us today, we live amid one of the most fatherless generations in the history of the world. I don’t mean simply single-mother homes, although those statistics can be shocking. I’m talking about a general Orphan Spirit that permeates our culture, especially in the West. We feel alone. We believe God has abandoned us.

In a new school and new city, Daniel immediately struggles to find his place, coming into conflict with kids from the local karate school, Cobra Kai. He doesn’t want to talk to his mom about it; she’s got her own problems. Without a father or mentor to guide him, Daniel is lost, and he reacts with anger and becomes hopeless.

That is the result of the Orphan Spirit on our culture. We lose direction and security, and that produces fear and anxiety. With that anxiety, we react out of anger, trying to force our way to some sense of stability and meaning.

And we ultimately fail. We can’t manufacture what we need. It’s only available in a relationship with a Father who loves us and seeks to give us intimacy and purpose from himself. Too often our anger and fear blind us to his love, however.

Which is why God enters our story with his generosity.

Father, help me to recognize when the devil attempts to make me feel alone and abandoned. Thank you for being a Father and giving us the meaning and relationship we have longed for. Amen.

Devotional #2: Generosity Reveals God’s Love

For God so loved the world that he gave … We all know the scripture. It’s been put on posters at sporting events for decades, probably one of the first verses we ever learned at church.

God’s act of love was to give of himself, revealing him as love.

Johnny Lawrence and the boys of Cobra Kai run Daniel off the road. On his bike, Daniel tumbles down a hill, and the bike is ruined. Miyagi overhears the heated argument between Daniel and the mother, how Daniel hates it there, how awful it is in California. Daniel throws the bike in the dumpster.

Miyagi fixes the bike and leaves it for Daniel, who is surprised at the gesture. Daniel finds Miyagi in the workshop at the apartment complex.

Miyagi has been introduced already as the handyman of the apartments. But Daniel wasn’t interested in a relationship before. Now, because of an act of generosity, Daniel is curious. Who is this man?

Something broken was redeemed. Daniel thought the bike was lost forever. Maybe it’s not hopeless after all.

For a fear-filled, anxious, and hopeless world, redeeming broken things gives people hope and makes them curious.

In our interaction with the world, they need hope, and Christ-like generosity opens that door, even if just a crack. People in our world have given up on so many things. When we show we care, when we go out of our way to give with great generosity, we declare there is a Father who loves them. We declare there is another world besides the broken one we live in (Matthew 12:28).

Feeding the hungry, giving clothes to the naked, visiting those in prison, regardless of who deserves it, these are the acts of those that love Jesus. Jesus literally receives it as if done to him (Matthew 25:31-46). Why? Because within those moments, we are saying his love is real.

Father, thank you for entering my world with your love and generosity, which I didn’t deserve but gave you joy to give. Help me to interact with others with the same generosity and declare your love for them. Amen.

Devotional #3: A Whole Way of Life

Miyagi doesn’t invite Daniel to learn karate. In fact, he has to be convinced to train Daniel. But Miyagi does invite Daniel into his life.

Daniel begins by entering the workshop to thank Miyagi for fixing the bike. He notices the bonsai trees. Miyagi begins by engaging Daniel’s heart with the tree. Once Miyagi agrees to teach Daniel karate, the older man opens his whole life to Daniel. He invites the young man to his home and brings him to the perfectly tended garden in the back. There are old, restored cars.

It’s a whole world full of interesting artifacts from a different culture, in this case, Japanese.

This is relational. Yes, we should invite people to church, but those dealing with fatherlessness need more than a one-hour service once a week. They require a new relationship.

God does this with us. Once we begin to respond, he brings us into the Kingdom and starts to show us around, sharing his amazing and perfect life with us, like a child in a new world (kingdom like a child). God doesn’t take us to a class to learn information but to a way of living that impacts every area of life. (Matthew 4:19)

We don’t have perfect lives, but through Christ, we should be living abundant and transformed ones. However, when we engage people with generosity, we must invite them into our lives. Have dinner with them. Tell our stories. Have them meet our families, pet our dog. They will see our story of transformation.

The Kingdom is a whole supernatural culture that God reveals to us. For those who are Christians, we are called to live according to that Kingdom culture, and inviting others to walk with us helps them to see the difference that other culture makes upon us.

Father, thank you for inviting us into your Heavenly Kingdom and sharing that awe, wonder, and mystery. Help me to reach out and invite people into my life and walk together to see transformation in others and myself. Amen.

Devotional #4: Everything from the Father

As Miyagi shares his world, Daniel asks questions. “Who taught you how to trim bonsai trees?”

“Father,” Miyagi says.

Miyagi’s father was a fisherman and a karate master. At one point, Daniel says, “You must’ve had some father.”

Miyagi agrees.

The Kingdom of God isn’t for a couple hours a week during religious services. Those are important, but the Kingdom culture impacts every aspect of our life – marriage, career, parenting, even science, logic, and emotion. All of it. The Kingdom is a complete way of life. The famous Sermon on the Mount is Jesus describing the culture of the Kingdom (sermon mount), and Jesus often taught the Kingdom in parables (Matthew 13:34), using everyday topics like farming or being a shepherd.

The first time Miyagi meets Daniel, the young man is in his living room, learning karate from a book. This surprises Miyagi because that’s not how he learned karate. He had been taught karate through relationship with a man who loved and cared for him, his own father.

That training wasn’t limited to karate, however. As Miyagi explains to Daniel, karate is about the whole life. It can’t be separated as an isolated discipline. That’s how Miyagi learned karate; that’s how he teaches it.

I am an author and love books (and articles like this one!), but we don’t learn to live the Kingdom culture through a book or a class once a week. It takes walking with God and a community of faith. We are to walk by the Spirit, live as one with the Father and our local assembly. That is the only way it works.

For the same reason, when we declare the Kingdom to others, it is best expressed through relationship, life on life, walking together, and sharing as a family.

Father, thank you for how you are constantly with us, seeking a deep and powerful relationship that brings your Truth to every area of our life. Help us to reach out and share our lives with others in the same way. Amen.

Featured Image Credit: Helgi Halldórsson / Karate Kid / CC BY-SA 2.0