“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).
In short, James tells us that true religion is a devotion to God, demonstrated by love and compassion for others, coupled with unworldliness. In scanning the web for articles related to religion and politics I came across some thought provoking questions:
- Is religion good or bad for people?
- What is the future of religion?
- Has politics replaced religion in America?
- Can America separate religion and politics?
- America without God. As religious faith has declined, ideological intensity has risen. Will the quest for secular redemption through politics doom the American idea?
- Is ‘Christian nationalism ‘ a threat to the American way of life?
- Are God’s people divided?
The church is meant to be salt and light, called out ones, ministers of reconciliation. Jesus paid a hefty price for the salvation of humanity. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says if you are a believer you have been bought for a price. A high has been paid for our freedom, so we are not to diminish or cheapen God’s investment by becoming a slave to people. My brothers and sisters, each of you should remain in whatever external circumstances you were in when God called you. We were bought with a price and not to become slaves of men. 1 Corinthians 7:23-24 (MSG) says, “All of you, slave and free both, were once held hostage in a sinful society. Then a huge sum was paid out for your ransom. So please don’t, out of old habit, slip back into being or doing what everyone else tells you. Friends, stay where you were called to be. God is there. Hold the high ground with him at your side”.
In James 1:27 (NIV), the apostle James gives us insight into what pure and undefiled religion looks like: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world”. The word for “undefiled” is translated “faultless”.
I was taught that when studying and interpreting any verse in the Bible, we should always look at its context to get an idea of what the verse means within the surrounding verses. In this case, we can look at what comes immediately before verse 27 and get some idea of what is going on in this particular passage. Verse 26 says, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” So, in these final two verses of James 1, we have a contrast between what makes religion “worthless” and what makes religion “acceptable” to God. The Voice translates vs 26-27, “If you put yourself on a pedestal, thinking you have become a role model in all things religious, but you can’t control your mouth, then think again. Your mouth exposes your heart, and your religion is useless. Real, true religion from God the Father’s perspective is about caring for the orphans and widows who suffer needlessly and resisting the evil influence of the world”. The Message Bible translates these two verses this way: “ Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” If professing Christians slander, speak falsehoods, the Bible says they are deceived and their religion is worthless. In this time of negative rhetoric spewed daily on social media even by some Christians and political leaders, it’s important to recognize that a spirit of deception is plaguing the church and the nation. Satan is a deceiver who deceives the whole world (Rev. 12:9).
When former President Donald Trump ran for office, one of the core pillars of his pitch to the voting public was this: Political correctness is a cancer eating away at the body politic. What did he mean by this? He said, “We have to straighten out our country, we have to make our country great again, and we need energy and enthusiasm,” Trump said during an appearance on “Meet the Press” in August 2015. “And this political correctness is just absolutely killing us as a country. You can’t say anything. Anything you say today, they’ll find a reason why it’s not good.” 1
Our eyes must be opened to the truth. Trump was appealing to: Whites watching the society and culture they had grown up with change faster and in ways that, in some cases, made them deeply uncomfortable. The idea is that liberals and/or the elites had made it so that no one could say what they thought, for fear of being labeled intolerant or un-enlightened.1 While there may have been there was a kernel of truth in Trump’s statement, his assault on political correctness went to far. His rhetoric clearly emboldened people to bring their hate speech into the light of day, but also lowered the bar for what is considered acceptable public discourse among politicians and other leaders in the country. The the rise of hate speech bought about the murder of 11 Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Eventually turning into an outward display of white nationalism and/or Christian nationalism resulting in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Our eyes must be opened to the truth. Christian nationalism is a dangerous ideology.
Scripture clearly admonishes believers to “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:29-30). This rhetoric gives satan a foothold (v. 27) into the lives of many who feel that in some way they have been disenfranchised.
James places the spotlight on the necessity for believers to act in accordance with our faith. How well do your actions mirror the faith that you proclaim? Your actions during trials, your treatment of those less fortunate, the way you speak and relate to others, and the role that money plays in how you live your life reveals your heart and your actions as a believer. These verses resonate in my spirit because there are those who openly profess their faith, yet their mouths spur ideologies, conspiracy theories, that do not represent the heart of God.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.George Santayana
The grace of God teaches us “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” This passage identifies the “blessed hope” as the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior.
We must remember that we are members of the body of Christ and we need each other! The coming of the Lord seems very near. The sovereign plan of God is moving towards completion. This means that united Christians will have to become more competent in their use of their weapons of warfare. The battle lines are being more aggressively drawn by the enemy of our souls. He is steadily moving the world system toward his ideal takeover. “or many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” ( 2 Jn. 1:7). We need spiritual discernment to see how the enemy is wreaking havoc on the church’s witness. Our eyes must be open to see the treacherous condition the church faces today and to show the way out. Along with discernment we need courage to speak out against those dangers and call the church back to the way, the truth, and the life found in Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6).
I humbly urge every reader to fight a good fight of faith and to love the body of Christ and people as our Lord loves them. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die for humanity. As believers we are called to love God with all our hearts and soul and strength, love our neighbors as our selves, and not to be conformed to this world (Luke 10:27; Rom. 12:2). He does not want an armload of offerings to show Him respect. He has already made it plain how to live, what to do, and what He is looking for in every believer. It’s clear: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, commit yourselves to seeking justice, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). Not only that, His desire that His church to quit their worship charades, and trivial religious games; instead we are to work for justice. Help the downtrodden, stand up for the homeless, go to bat for the defenseless. Do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause (Isa. 1:17). This is the religion that God accepts.
Pray for spiritual awakening in America and abroad!
Minister A. Francine Green
Notes: All scripture references are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
- Cillizza, Chris, The dangerous consequences of Trump’s all-out assault on political correctness, 30 Oct 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/30/politics/donald-trump-hate-speech-anti-semitism-steve-king-kevin-mccarthy