Pure and Undefiled Religion2
Religion that is pure and undefiled, says James in chapter one, verse twenty-seven, of his epistle, entails both the compassionate love and care for “orphans and widows”, on the one hand, and keeping ourselves “unstained from the world”, on the other. Continue reading . . .
Religion that is pure and undefiled, says James in chapter one, verse twenty-seven, of his epistle, entails both the compassionate love and care for “orphans and widows”, on the one hand, and keeping ourselves “unstained from the world”, on the other.
The sort of “separation” he has in view here does not require that one leave the world or live in a cave or hide behind closed doors. The “separation” in view is not physical or spatial; it’s moral and spiritual. He is talking about walking in moral, financial, and sexual integrity in the midst of a fallen and filthy society.
By the way, I find it highly instructive that the person who knows and loves Jesus is the one who cares about both public compassion and justice on the one hand, and private purity and morality on the other. It’s quite tragic that our political process has degenerated to such an extent that both Republicans and Democrats caricature one another. The Democrat says to the Republican:
“You preach to us about sexual morality and personal integrity at the same time you neglect the poor and homeless and disenfranchised all around you.”
And the Republican says to the Democrat:
“You argue that we should increase welfare payments to the poverty-stricken and raise taxes on the wealthy, but you ignore the plague of abortion and tell us that an individual’s personal and sexual conduct is none of our business.”
In other words, there is counsel here for the leftward-leaning Democrat and the rightward leaning Republican. To the Republican, James says: “Be committed to concrete acts of kindness and generosity and practical deeds of compassion.” To the Democrat, James says: “Your personal life does matter. Sexual purity and financial integrity and a thought life not given to lust or pornography are crucial.”
Is that a simplistic and somewhat unfair portrayal? Probably. The fact is, there are many Democrats who are devoted to personal purity and many Republicans who fight for social justice. What’s important for us to remember is that as far as James is concerned true Christianity must actively pursue both. Irrespective of our political affiliation, both our public and our private lives matter to God! Concrete actions of compassion and love for the orphan and the widow are absolutely essential. And so too is a commitment to sexual purity and financial integrity.