Sunday, April 1, 2012

Losing Religion

Losing Religion
April 2, 2012
James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

The word "religion" has developed a bad reputation in recent years. It has become synonymous with an outdated and out of touch practice. It is often marked with liturgical and mindless rituals inside the church walls, practices that have lost their meaning over the decades. Younger generations, not able to see the original meaning behind it all, reject this religion because it does not make sense; it becomes irrelevant. I would argue that younger generations are correct in their understanding of the older religion because it HAS lost its meaning; it IS irrelevant today. If my grandfather's peers could have perpetuated the meaning behind their practices in their daily practices, the word "religion" would not be offensive.

Even the very first Christians lost the true meaning behind their religion, just one generation after the death and resurrection of Christ. The apostle and brother of Jesus, James, wrote about this to the first church. He said that faultless or meaningful religion was not necessarily a liturgical practice but a lifestyle that impacted and affected others. He mentioned taking care of orphans and widows as crucial to that practice. He did not mean, however, that taking care of orphans or widows was a religion in and of itself, but that a heart should be purposed with action by the one professing Christianity. He was suggesting that our Christianity should be marked by taking care of others.

Orphans and widows are two people groups who could be considered innocent in regard to their situation, meaning they do not conduct their lives in a manner so as to leave themselves without a father or without a spouse. They are people who are negatively impacted by an uncontrollable event. When James wrote these words, a widow couldn't own property, become educated, or manage a business. And a child has always been too helpless to provide for himself. James said it was the job of people who call themselves "Christians" to take care of those who couldn't take care of themselves, to provide for those who were struck down by life's circumstances.Those who are struck down by life's circumstances today are not just called orphans or widows. Today they are called hurricane victims, unemployed, hungry, and abused. They are living among us with a fake smile on their faces and they are living abroad needing surgery to correct a cleft lip and palate. But we are often too consumed with taking care of our own selves to help these people. We are too corrupted by the desires of this world to care for someone else.

James wrote about this, too, the corruption that comes from living in this world. That is the second line following his order to take care of orphans or widows. He said we should avoid becoming tainted by the ways of this world. Today we call this "keeping up with the Joneses," or striving to live the way others live because of our envy. If we live with envy, then it is impossible to see the need in others. My grandfather's religion didn't teach us to take care of those affected by life's circumstances, but you and I have the opportunity to redefine religion in the eyes of our peers today. We can prove that Christians are the first to respond to sex trafficking, flood victims, and even the electricity bill of the unemployed.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 10:17-18, Ps 82:3, Ps 103:6, Ps 146:7, Is 1:17, Is 58:10, Dan 4:27, 1 Tim 5:4, James 1

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