“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
True religion. Pure and undefiled religion. I sometimes furrow my brow when people refer to me as a religious person, not because I don’t love Jesus, but because I would rather be known as a “that guy loves Jesus” person. Something about being called religious usually makes me feel stale or in a strange way not sincere or genuine.
I got a little perspective this morning from the book of James (thanks Pastor Duncan). The above verse from James 1:26-27 is sweet. True Religion. Pure. Undefiled. To care for the orphan. To care for the widow in her distress. To remain undefiled by the world. This morning I am praying that the Lord would indeed make me a religious man.
The first half of caring for orphans and widows indeed changed my perspective on the word religious, which always conjured up images of “the Pharisees” praying out loud in public squares and on fasting days looking like someone died because they wanted everyone to know they were fasting. But to me the second part where James mentions pure and undefiled religion, to remain unstained by this world, also grabbed my attention.
“Unstained by this world”? Huh. In America and in the West the prevailing thought is that everything is relative….so what the heck does it mean to be unstained by the world? It means this, that contrary to what our culture says today, there is right and there is wrong. There is good and there is evil. For our own sake and the benefit of others too, we should pursue what is good and right, and make every effort to remain unstained by what is evil and wrong.
How do you tell the difference? Especially when everything from the nightly news, to popular tv shows, to commercials to politicians are telling you it is all just relative, it is all “the grey area”. My answer is ask God. I ask God. God is real, not just some religious symbol. So when I want to know what is good and what is evil, what is wrong what is right….I ask God to show me personally. I ask the Holy Spirit to convict me of evil and show me what is good.
The more we have of pure and undefiled religion in our lives, the clearer things become. The closer we are to God. We are more available to see God’s purposes for our lives, and less distracted by well, all our distractions. The fog lifts. Things makes sense.