Thursday, August 16, 2018

Pure Religion - Martin Wiles

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27 NLT

One phone call, and in a few hours groceries were sitting on the front porch.

Just a few blocks from my paternal grandparents’ home was Stroman’s Grocery. The store, like most Mom and Pop stores, was small but housed a variety of items. My great-grandmother, who lived with my grandparents, loved to order her sodas and a few other items from Stroman’s. Why I’m not sure, since my grandfather made a daily trip to Piggly Wiggly. 

I’m sure Mr. Stroman made a profit on his sales. But I’m also sure he cared more about his customers than he did his profit. After all, that’s what Mom and Pop store owners did. Customers weren’t just another face in a crowd as they are in present-day retail stores. Customers were friends, fellow church-goers, neighbors, and even relatives. Not only did the store owners know their customers' names, but they often knew their customers’ children.

My great grandmother was a widow, so Mr. Stroman was doing what James defined as true religion: taking care of orphans and widows.

James’ definition of true religion fights against some of the definitions I’ve heard in my lifetime. For some, it’s a matter of obeying a stated group of laws and traditions. Many of them manmade. For others, it entails being at a church facility every time the doors are open. Still, others think true religion is whatever they make it out to be.

James parrots Jesus who attempted to understand people’s situations rather than judging them or avoiding them as so many of the hypocritical religious leaders did. Understanding people is challenging, but loving them means I must attempt to understand their situations rather than cast a judging glance.

When I’ve adopted true religion, I’ll ask God for opportunities to help others and for the spiritual awareness to see those opportunities when He sends them. God is more than willing to send them, but busyness and selfishness often keep me from seeing them when they’re right in front of my face.

True religion also means doing something. I can’t do everything. No one can. The opportunities for doing good are too numerous. But I can do something—the something that God wants me to do.

Ask God to show you how to observe pure religion. And when He does, take advantage of the opportunities He sends.

Prayer: Father, may we not play religion but actually observe pure religion. 

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