“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27
According to Google, religion is defined as “belief in a god or gods and the activities that are connected with this belief, such as praying or worshipping in a building such as a church or temple. A religion is a particular system of belief in a god or gods and the activities that are connected with this system.”
Scholars define religion as follows: “A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden — beliefs and practices which unite into one single.” Merriam-Webster defines religion as “the state of being religious; the service and worship of God or the supernatural; a commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.”
Religious individuals and institutions are challenged daily with addressing matters such as the rising tide of violence and homicides in our city and nationwide; the emerging battle between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated; the reality that COVID-19 and its associated illnesses, along with the disruption and death that have not gone away; schools quarantining entire classrooms and some have even returned to an all virtual classroom approach; hospitals once again delaying elective surgeries and limiting visitations; and politics taking center stage with red and blue states battling against each other regarding the best way to handle the newest surge.
The Apostle James pens a letter to the Israelites of the 12 tribes scattered abroad. He writes these believers as a true servant of God sending greetings. He admonishes them to count it all joy and be patient. They must endure the hardships they are facing. He reminds: if you need anything, ask God who is the ultimate source and supplier of all our needs.
When asking, one must ask in faith and not waiver. Don’t be double-minded for a double-minded person is unstable in all their ways. He again encourages them to endure temptation for a crown awaits those who endure.
The Apostle then makes a powerful and poignant pivot in his commentary. “Therefore…” he notes, “be slow to speak, be slow to wrath, lay aside naughtiness, and be doers of the Word and not just hearers.” Here’s why this pivot is powerful. Here is the central message. Here’s how we apply James’ biblical definition of religion, specifically “pure religion and undefiled religion.”
First, “pure religion” helps those who are in distress. If our religion is pure, if our devotion to Christ is pure, if we truly want to represent the Christian faith well, we must help those who are in distress. And who are those in distress? Orphans (the fatherless) and widows (those whose spouses have passed on to glory).
Finally, “pure and undefiled religion before God” means we must keep ourselves unspotted from the world. We must subdue our passions. This means we must walk upright and circumvent our proclivity toward sin. We work daily to conquer our flesh. And we must remember that immoral, illicit or illegal activity of one believer reflects squarely on all believers!
Pure religion is obtainable through submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If we want to truly please God we must practice pure religion here on Earth. Then, and only then, will we hear our God say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Dr. Preston T. Adams III is senior pastor at Amazing Grace Christian Church in Indianapolis. Contact Pastor Adams via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @DrPrestonTAdams. For more information, visit agccindy.org.