Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you (James 1:27 NLT).
Religion! Got religion? It was an all too common question growing up in the deep South. Mostly, I ran away from religion. But God pursued and I eventually surrendered to His free gift of Grace. A relationship, not religion. Forgiveness and salvation purchased with the costly blood of His Son. Eternal life. Amazing Grace.
But James doesn’t let us slide past the word religion without a second glance. He prods us to practice “true religion.”
James was not talking about religion as entrance into heaven, rather, the practical expression of one’s devotion. The word for religion, threskeia, is only used once in the entire New Testament. It refers to the “outward ceremonial service of religion” (Key Word Study Bible). True religion, according to James, must involve acts of “mercy, love, and holiness.”
Let’s take a moment to reflect on James 1:27 in the Amplified Version:
External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction andneed, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.
If we want to please the Father, James exhorts us, then do it with acts of kindness for the hurting ones, especially widows and orphans. But we must not forget the purity of our own life, as well. This is the kind of religion that warms the heart of our God.
I’m asking God to show me who is on His heart. I want to be sensitive to His Spirit and alert to practical ways I can serve those in need…especially during this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of His son.
Dare to pray the prayer God always answers: Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours. -Amen.
*Did you know your Christmas shopping can help support widows and orphans? To learn more: www.FashionandCompassion.com. Stop by the Wells Fargo Atrium in Charlotte (Wednesday and Thursday, December 12, 13).
Find out more ways to put your faith into action by attending the Ignite Justice Conference in Charlotte, January 11,12. Register now: www.IgniteJusticeConference.org. Use the code “FRIEND” and register by Sat. 12/1 to receive $25 off registration.