But I still prefer the version from my Bible, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and fautless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
The pastor at our church has been preaching on James for the last month or so...really good, really heart-opening stuff. His sermon on this verse Sunday left me in tears (big surprise) and I just had to share the basics of it (because there was SO MUCH MORE than what I am touching on)...I hope it does you justice Pastor Bob!
I've always loved James 1:27, especially since beginning the journey of adoption, but the way PB (as we SCC folks know him) broke it down really gave me a new look at it.
First we need to put the emphasis on GOD the FATHER! "Religion that GOD THE FATHER accepts as pure and faultless..." HE is the one who determines whether our religion is acceptable or not. HE is the one who sees our hearts, hears our prayers, EVALUATES whether we are actually DOING and not just saying. Its not whether WE think we have done well, or even other's opinions of our relationship with Christ...only God knows the inner workings of our heart. Only HE is pure and faultless, so therefore only He can determine whether our religion is pure and fautless.
True religion is PURE. What does "pure" mean anyway? (Taken from Webster's Online Dictionary.)
Unmixed with any other matter.
Free from dust, dirt, or taint.
Being thus and no other: SHEER
Free from what viatates, weakens, or pollutes.
True religion is FAULTLESS - unstained, unsoiled.
Think about gold being purified in the fire....it's not easy! In fact, its IMPOSSIBLE....without God's grace! Who can do this apart from HIM?!?!
True religion looks after orphans. Think about what it means to "...look after..." orphans. What does that mean for us as Christians? Who are the orphans of the present day? I think the obvious are abandoned children - here in the United States, in your own backyard, across the world in a 3rd world country... But then there are children that are neglected or starving. Kids who's parents are in jail or rehab. UNBORN CHILDREN abandoned and unwanted by their parents. We need to look after them too! How? Adoption is probably the obvious one you expect from me. Child sponsorships, foster care, water projects (like Christmas Water...started by a group in my church), adopt/build a third world orphanage, sponsor adoptive families, start adoption grant funds in your church to help families pursuing adoption, PRO-LIFE MINISTRY (in a practical and loving way). There are practical ways to apply this to our lives. Look around at the need!
IF ONLY 7% of the Christians today adopted....there would be NO MORE orphans in the world! Check out this break down.
God our FATHER wants us to care for the FATHERLESS...doesn't that just show the heart of our God???
True religion cares for widows in their distress. Think of what it would feel like to be in their shoes. You just lost your spouse - your lover, your best friend, your partner, your companion. You are lonely. YOU are left to deal with the funeral, the mourning, comforting your children. Then you are left with the financial burden...not only the cost of the funeral and burial, but then you alone are responsible to care for your family. After years of relying on your partner you have to figure it out for yourself, while carrying on with daily life. You want to keep things as normal as possible for your children, but you are HURTING! Your car breaks down - your husband used to fix it. Now you need to bring it to a shop. Who can you rely on? Parent-teacher meeting are coming up and your kid's having a hard time in school. You used to be a stay-at-home-mom and now you have to go back to work...how will you manage? And THIS is just an example here in the United States (and of my worst fear). Imagine a 3rd world country. (Read this post...there is paragraph in there about a woman sitting in her hut....)
What kind of widows do we look after? 1 Timothy 5:3-4 (The Message) says, "Take care of widows who are destitute. If a widow has family members, let them learn that religion begins at their own doorstep and that they should pay back with gratitude some of what they have received. This pleases God immensely."
How will we recognize widows who are in need? 1 Timothy 5:6 (The Message) says, "You can tell a legitimate widow by the way she has put all her hope in God, praying to him constnatnly for the needs of others as well as her own." 1 Timothy 5:9 says, "...They must be over sixty, married only once, and have a reputation for helping out with children, strangers, tired Christians, the hurt and troubled."
What would it look like if we poured love into these women so that they could blossom and pour love into their families and others around them. What kind of impact would that have on our world? (When you check out that link above please be sure to browse around Andrea's blog...such an amazing woman with a heart for God and his people.)
I've told you before about WIPHAN (WIdows + orPHANs = WIPHAN). I think its an amazing ministry...and imagine if we applied it HERE as well...with the widows in our own backyard!
True religion keeps one from being polluted by the world....or as PB calls it, a "spiritual environmentalist"! =P If we fully intend to LIVE OUT this passage, we have to guard our HEARTS from the pollution of our ungodly world. Yes, we are sinful by nature...and there is only one cure: the precious blood of Jesus!
In PB's conclusion he said this, "When it comes to the social concern for the fatherless, widows, and for moral purity, GOD IS SERIOUS. Care for orphans and widows is commanded." As Christians we are called to be MORALLY DISTINCT from the world - and Jesus set the example for us Himself. Follow HIS lead.
Thank you, PB, for your sermon on Sunday and for stirring our hearts. We long to have a heart like Jesus.