Pure and Undefiled Religion
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
One of the biggest struggles we have in being impartial is that we often only like to be around those who we are “comfortable” being around. We have a certain type of person we prefer to keep company with, and it is usually people who are just like us. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But it can become a bad thing if it leads us to neglect serving everyone else, especially those who are in helpless situations physically and spiritually. James says that pure and undefiled religion is this: “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” James is telling us what we need to do if we want to have “pure and undefiled religion”: we need to serve those who are helpless. James also challenges us to get out of our comfort zones to do so. We need to do more than just make a phone call. We need to do more than just send a card, flowers, or money. Those things are “easy” compared to what James encourages us here. James is challenging us to actually leave our houses and associate with those who are in need. This is what James means when he tells them to “visit.” It is going to the person, showing concern for their welfare, and doing what you can do to meet whatever need there is. The word ‘visit’ is used elsewhere in the Bible. It is used in Exodus when we are told that God “visited” His people in Egypt to deliver them (Gen 50:24; Exo 4:31). Also, Jesus “visited” mankind in bringing them the hope of salvation (Luke 1:68, 19:44). It was much more than a social call. It was much more than just coming to say, “hi, how are you doing.” It was all about coming to those who are in need and making sacrifices to meet the need. This is not usually the most comfortable thing for us to do, and at times, being around those who are in affliction can feel awkward. But those with a “pure and undefiled religion” feel compassion for the helpless, and this compassion helps them to overcome the awkwardness and the discomfort they feel in spending time with those who are different then them. They will learn to go out of their way to meet a need no matter who is in need, just as their Lord and Teacher did (cf. Romans 5:6).
Are you striving to have an impartial, pure, and undefiled religion in the sight of God?
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