“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
I love this verse and I hate this verse.
This verse nails me to the floor every time.
My husband did a great, God inspired, job of preaching a sermon on this verse many months ago (maybe even a year ago now). It was one of those sermons I haven’t been able to shake from my head. One of those sermons that revisit me periodically to poke… and push… and chisel away at me, that I would look more like Christ.
I love this verse so much… and my flesh hates it so.
Widows, orphans. I want to make those the cute little people in Hallmark worlds, so far removed from us. Annie, the classic redheaded example of an orphan. And then pictures begin flashing through my head.
See, this verse uses these terms in their specific contexts of literal widows and orphans, but it also applies beyond the fatherless and the spouseless. It refers to the “least of these”. The filthy. The “left for dead”. The abandoned by society and the world. The hated. The devastated by culture and community. The utter and completely undesirable.
And it’s meditating on this verse that draws the pictures of those hostages in the brothels, and their captors. Those walking the shores half-naked after a tsunami. Those faces I have seen of children and families trapped in poverty all around the world. Those rendered useless because they are too disabled to hold a job. Those penned as mentally unstable, and therefore are wandering the streets.
And my flesh cries out, “I don’t want to go there!”
“I don’t want to sit down in the filth and the pain and the destruction! I don’t want to walk a mile with that burden I’m called to help carry.”
But then the Spirit within me reminds me of my own filth. My own utter desolation and destruction without Christ and even my own ugliness when I operate in my flesh while IN Christ.
The filthy rags of the orphan and the widow still smell putrid. The hurts are still real. And deep. And there are still so many unanswerable questions. And sitting beside the girl on the brothel floor may not remove her from the brothel. But is Christ still Beautiful in a brothel?
“PURE and UNDEFILED religion”
Oh there are certainly times I wish God didn’t define work with widows and orphans as “pure and undefiled religion” and yet He has opened my eyes. He has given me His heart. Even though I so don’t deserve it.
See, religion is and can be pure and undefiled when I am not in it. When it’s not about me. When it’s all about Christ.
See, my flesh doesn’t want to “visit”, which in its context is not talking about a one-time affair but instead is referring to a “living with” or “traveling with” affair – a “walking alongside” and “carrying their burden” kind of visit. Yeah, my flesh doesn’t want to visit… so I have to leave it at the door to accomplish this command.
I am forced to shed my desires, my wants, my reservations, my discomforts and instead put fully on the robe of Christ. Maybe, just maybe that’s what Christ was referring to when He said “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…” (John 15:7). Maybe that’s what it means to let His Words abide in me. Let Him abide in us…
Oh that He would even stoop down and find me desirable – not in any way needed for His mission – but desirable to be a vessel of His unconditional love.
“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)
It nails me every time.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20