I’ve always hated the idea of religion. I just think, too many rules, too many mandates and just too many important people!
So as I began this journey on getting to know God for myself through the scriptures, my ideas around religion is shifting.
These days I’ve been enjoying the book of James during my devotional time. And as I was going through, James 1:27 really hit me which says;
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.James 1:27
The first thing that struck me while reading this is the first line: pure and undefiled religion. What is that? For many of us who grew up in church, we have adopted so many ways that we consider normal; or that we believe is even scriptural. For example, I was brought up in a household where my mother refrained from wearing a wedding ring for the longest time. As a matter of fact, she, many years later after all of us were born, went out and bought her own wedding ring to wear. I remember one day asking my mother as a young girl why my father didn’t initially buy her one? Her reply was, “The church didn’t believe in it at the time”. I cannot stress how much the church influences peoples ideas of the bible, our walk with the Lord or even our ideas about God Himself. And rightfully so! It should…as a matter of fact, it’s one of the purposes of the church. However, it becomes problematic when the church presents false ideas, ideals or even doctrines (intentionally or not) about God and His purpose for His people.
Religion isn’t about the external. It doesn’t focus on what we can or cannot wear. Rather, it focuses on how we purposefully care for others@msmochambers
This being said, contrary to popular opinion or what some of us have learned over the years,
- Pure and undefiled religion is for the eyes of God
- Pure and undefiled religion creates a sense of belonging for those in distress
- Pure and undefiled religion cultivates acceptance in a divisive world
This is powerful because often times, we have our own ideas of what religion should be or shouldn’t be. But James is urging us to keep ourselves unstained by the world; through secularism or by any other standard or expectation that is outside of the framework God has outlined as religion.
Therefore, as Paul writes to the church in Rome, which is reiterated by James earlier on in the same chapter above, to not be hearers of the Law but also doers (Rm 2:13). And the Word of God says [by Jesus Himself actually],
‘For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”(Matt 25:35-40 NASB)
Again, pure and undefiled religion is about how we purposefully care for others.
- Before reading these scriptures, what was your understanding of religion?
- Has anything changed or shifted in your understanding?
- If someone was interested in being a part of your religion, what would they see? In other words, how are you living out what you believe?