Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pure Religion

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27).

James 1:27 is our family's latest memory verse.

As we have been working on memorizing it, we have had a few conversations about its meaning.

As I have looked at the Scripture, I have been struck by its first word: Religion. It refers to a devotion that ties one to God. James mentions that it can be pure and undefiled before God, implying that some religion can also be impure and defiled. It's been popular in recent decades to say, "Christianity isn't a religion. It's a relationship." I understand the sentiment, but I prefer James' way of looking at it. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he sees Christianity as a religion that can be pure and undefiled. He sees the Christian faith as something good and wholesome...something that connects us to the Father in a very positive way.

Then the verse focuses on what makes this religion pure and undefiled.

First, it asserts that pure and undefiled religion cares about people in need, especially orphans and widows who have no one to care for them. An impure and defiled religion would ignore or minimize the needs of people who are suffering. But Christianity, in its purest form, is a faith that takes the needs of people seriously. We follow Christ when we visit someone in the hospital, adopt an orphan, make a phone call to a widow, spend a day with a disabled man, read the Bible to a child whose parents do not believe, or sponsor a child in a poverty-stricken country. Pure religion prompts us to care about people who are suffering to the point that we will take action.

Second, the Scripture states that pure and undefiled religion motivates us to keep ourselves unstained from the world. We can do this in a number of ways:

~By accepting the word of God with humility (James 1:21)
~By eliminating our prejudice against the poor (James 2:1-13)
~By putting our faith into action (James 2:14-26)
~By controlling our words (James 3:1-12)
~By replacing envy and selfish ambition with a godly perspective of peacefulness, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, impartiality, sincerity, humility, fairness, patience, and good conduct (James 3-5)

This kind of religion is not only pure and undefiled; it's compelling.

2 comments:

reborn1995 said...

Terry,

Good stuff. i always wondered why people obsessed with the "soundness" of this or that congregation never used the content of this verse as a key criteria for judging a congregation's level of "soundness."

--guy

Terry said...

Thanks, Guy. I had never thought of that, but I have a feeling that Jesus may use it as key criteria. That's an interesting thought. Thanks for sharing it.