Religion, Yuck!

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?

The Messed Up ‘Cookie-Cutter’ Life

Never in a million years did I think I’d be the one. I never thought I’d fit into the role of a minister. Maybe someone else, maybe someone more qualified, but certainly not me!’

Those were my initial sentiments when I was called into the eldership role at my local church.

As feelings of ‘not qualified and not good enough’ began to roam my mind; I realized, indeed I had a problem on my hands…

I mean, why not me?

For as long as I could remember, the Man Upstairs and I have always had a relationship. Sure we’ve gone through seasons where I’ve been distant, but I can’t remember a day in my life where I’ve ever doubted His existence.

Going back, I could remember being very young having bold conversations with the Lord. The awareness of His omnipresence was evident to me; it was as if I knew He was right there next to me in the room. 

Growing up in a Christian home helped instill these values, ones that never seemed to have left me. Simple things like, “read your Bible and pray every day so you will grow, grow, grow…” was a song that rang in my heart. Even today, it dictates my daily practices.

And can I tell you how many books on prayer, how to study the bible, how to become a woman after God’s own heart, concordances or other biblical resources I have coming out of my ears; all because they happen to be of interest to me. I have so many books, my poor library can barely contain them all!

I have this burning desire to grow- to ever become a better person, the best I can be! And this same message I desire others to have. 

I know it may not be what a conventional person may want, let alone pursue, but it is my deepest desire. It truly is.

Now, inspite of how spiritually perfect this blog post is beginning to make me sound; don’t get it twisted, I was not at the least bit perfect. Nope, not at all! 

Actually, I’ve always been and remain quite far from it.

I have made so many terrible mistakes in my teens and early adulthood that I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much the Lord has worked on me…and continues to work on me!

POINT OF THE MATTER IS, WE ARE ALL LIVING PROOF OF GOD’S GRACE AND HOW NECESSARY HIS GRACE IS FOR OUR CALL. 

Most of us, if not all of us, fail to live the perfectly cookie cutter life. We just can’t, we’re humans! But that does not in the least bit disqualify us from being called or from walking out the call God’s placed on our lives. 

Sometimes we forget that God calls us, even before we recognize the call within ourselves. The Bible says, before we knew Him, He knew us and intricately mapped out our lives (Psalms 139). The call was placed on our lives before we knew Christ. And according to Romans 8, He called us knowing that He’d need to justify our wrong doings and all of our inadequacies so that we could be counted in, not out. In justifying us, God is glorified through us! 

So here we are. We’re all ministers! You don’t need a piece of paper or title to qualify you. Certainly these help the congregation or others around you to recognize what you already know in and of yourself. But really, God’s already qualified you with an irrefutable calling!  

Therefore, I don’t have to be perfect, nor do you! We need to recognize the grace of God on our lives and live just that- live in the consciousness of His grace by way of His call. In doing this, others will see Christ and be drawn to Him. 

Plainly put, that’s our role as ministers. 

So again, why not me? Better yet, why not you?