What Does Pure Religion Look Like?

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    James 1:27 (NIV)

    The 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.

    This reminder from the book of James is not all that God expects of us, but it is one manifestation of what true faith in action looks like.  Who are the orphans and widows of our day? We don’t have to look far to find the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the forgotten of our communities.  They greet us on street corners, on freeway offramps, outside of any given establishment we patronize.  While my pastor was preaching yesterday, he convicted me of just how far I have gone to make sure that I don’t see the needy people of the world.  I have turned off the television when the children’s charity that helps impoverished children in third world nations comes on. I have looked the other way, or pretended not to hear the human being sitting at my ankles who asks for change.

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    Worse and more recently than both, however, I have sought out a gated neighborhood of well-manicured lawns, perfect houses, great schools, and lots of people who look and act much like me.  In and of itself this isn’t bad or sinful.  But the Holy Spirit has forced to re-examine the fact that I use all of these amenities to insulate me from the cries of the very people I, the Christian woman, should be helping and engaging on a regular basis. In my plush, comfortable home, I cannot see or hear those in need.  God did not give me all that he has given me so that I can grow even more comfortable.  He has gifted, empowered, and given me authority so that I can go out and help those people for whom no one speaks, for those without a voice, those whom he loves deeply.

    So I am stirred up. But that is not enough.  I cannot speak for you.  But I know now that must find out what faith in action looks like for Sheeri Mitchell, wife, mother of four, writer.  Where would God begin to have me use my talents? Whom would he have me seek out? Surely he must have a plan, and I want to know what it is.  In the meantime, any adult literacy program or soup kitchen will do – to start.  I can sit no longer.  The old excuses of not having enough time or money, having small children, or pursuing too many commitments, will not suffice any longer.  I have been disobedient. Where I was once consistently involved helping people who have less, even when I myself had less, I see that I have allowed the very blessings God has given me to become trappings that turn my attention only inward.

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    Well, I repent. From this moment on, I must be about my Father’s business, if for no other reason than to show my children what that looks like.  Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be out wearing a sandwich board, selling bibles on the freeway, yelling at people to come to Christ.  But I will find something productive to do for those who need, something that will take me outside of my home, my neighborhood, and if I’m smart, my comfort zone.  And if you are wondering, no, this move to action is not guilt-induced.  Guilt accomplishes nothing that lasts.  No, getting off my butt, is truly the least I can do out of love for a Savior, who spent his life among society’s forgotten and undesirable, who gave his life so that I could make something out of mine, and who loves me so well, it’s just embarrassing.

    How about you? Are you in the same rut I was?  Have you bumped your head, too, forgetting what God has called us to do? What have you done or do to help the those who have less?  If you’re not involved anywhere at the moment, what are you willing to explore?

    Please share your constructive comments, including suggestions for places of service in your area, so that others who may be waking up to this desire will benefit as well.

    Remember, to meet people where they are, you must leave “here.”

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