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)
When you combine the directness of the author and the clarity of meaning expressed in the New Living Translation, James’ letter in the New Testament can be frustratingly meddlesome.
If I asked you or you asked me what first comes to mind the you hear the word “religion” — what words and images appear first, before the filters of experience and learning and supposed-to-be begin to influence your response — what would you say? I know, for myself, that widows and orphans would not be on the top of my list.
And yes, I know that culturally the section of the world in which I live is different than “Bible times” (a phrase that I would suggest we’ve misused all these years in reference to the period in history when the human characters in the stories shared int the Bible lived in earth — misused because we are all living in Bible times). Still, I think we’d be better off doing what the Word says than explaining away the directives as irrelevant.
I say that as a woman with short hair.
But, before I get stuck on a long diatribe about what it means to care for widows and orphans (something which is at once clear and open for interpretation) let me ask this of myself: how should I be refusing to let the world corrupt me? Who has this pure religion right?
The Amish, who at least in theory protect themselves from corruption by separating themselves as much as possible?
Maybe those arms of the faith who live by rules and regulations and create a list of do and don’t do for every possible scenario?
I could rant on, but I won’t. I’m more distracted by this than helped. I can get to feeling too self righteous because I know these ways have not worked all that well. And in this I sin, for my way has not really worked either and my rantings too easily become prideful judgement.
I am left with one reasonable response: prayer. Submitting myself — a sinner saved by grace on a long journey toward holiness — to a Holy God, and ask Him to transform me. Only in His power and by His work will I even begin to get it right.