We live in a religious culture. Not a Christian culture, but a religious culture. Even here in my cubicle, I have sitting next to me, a professing Muslim, a Catholic, an atheist and another Christian. It's important to recognize this because no one operates without religion. Even the atheist has a religion, a system of beliefs and truths that govern their lives. We are surrounded by 'religion.'
"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 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 1:26-27
RELIGION vs. RELATIONSHIP
A real pet-peeve of mine is when Christians put a lot of energy into downplaying Christianity as a religion. You might here it like this, "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship."
I totally understand what the intention behind that sentence is, but it's not true.
James 1:27 clearly tells us that before God there is "pure religion." That means that the more accurate, and biblical, thing to say is "Christianity is not 'primarily' a religion, it's about a relationship."
WORTHLESS vs. PURE
So if everyone operates from a religion, what makes religions different?
That's a good question.
James tells us that there are two categories of worship: worthless and pure. Ok, so then the following question is "what makes a religion worthless?" James explains it by saying that if you think you are religious and do not bridal (control) your tongue your religion is worthless.
And then secondly he says that when you deceive your own heart, your religion is worthless. That means that if our actions are not affected by what we believe, then what we believe is worthless. Don't hold on to a religion that causes no change in your life. If that's your Christianity, that's worthless. Throw it out.
But there is a type of religion that James commends.
It's a religion that is 'pure' and 'undefiled.' What makes it 'pure?' Religion that is pure is religion that causes action. It moves people to love and help others. It causes you to help the orphan, to help the widow, to do a million things out of love and a transformed heart.
WHY SELENA THEN?
Angela told me that she had a conversation with someone that was clearly negative towards our pursuit of Selena. The main concern from this person was,
"why we would adopt someone with mental and physical disabilities? Why would we bring someone into our home that would never be able to leave our home? Why would you spend 30K to adopt someone like Selena?"
At first, I just dismiss people like that.
But the truth is that most of the world wouldn't do what we are doing. I'm not saying that to highlight us in anyway, but in such a 'religious' (Christian or non-Christian) world, most people would not choose to adopt and pursue Selena: a special needs child from another country.
So why did we?
We did primarily because God put it in our hearts to love and desire Selena. I believe it's evidence that our lives, our 'religion,' is not worthless but that God is doing something real and valuable in our lives to cause us to reach out and love Selena.
We did, because God first loved us (in all our inadequacies' and disabilities), and adopted us into his family. Now, we have the joy of doing that for others.
Our relationship with God affects and animates our religion. It causes us to love the orphan and to take care of the widow.
I'm really praying today that our religion grows out of our relationship with the risen Christ. And that over time it becomes more and more refined and pure.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Leave a comment below and tell us what you think about Religion being pure or worthless? What do you think?