by Gail Rodgers
“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.” James 1:27 NIV
A new store caught my eye in the mall recently. “True Religion” was its name and it featured a brand of new chic designer wear. I noticed their denim leggings in the window. They were cute. The store was obviously popular.
My heartstrings were pulled by the words “true religion”. Not because of the fashionable clothes I was seeing…. but because those words were already embedded in my heart in a completely different context. I wondered if any of the young people moving in and out of that store had any idea what “true religion” really means.
The definition is a long-standing one. It’s been reliably quoted for centuries. It has challenged people, changed attitudes and outlooks for generations and brought help to some of the world’s most vulnerable.
“True religion” is to take care of the orphans and widows, those homeless and loveless in their plight, and to guard your heart against corruption from the godless world.” ?Paraphrase of James 1:26 & 27.
What a contrast to those same neon words flashing in the store window.
A few short days later John and I were on our way to Africa!! An amazing, incredible trip that continued to speak to my heart about the contrasts as I found them there.
Beauty beyond description as the setting sun on the Masa Maria plains outlined the majestic elephants.
Young faces etched with sorrow as outstretched hands begged for a few coins.
Beautiful lush gardens, grown by caretakers filled with love and a desire to provide for the homeless children with the sad eyes.
Trash heaps that were “home” to thousands living in poverty so desperate it ripped at my heart.
We are home now. My bed is comfortable and my fridge is full. I can choose which definition of “true religion” I will live by.
Though I say I try to live simply and not “over-consume”, I realize its often just words that make me feel good about myself.
And so ….. I am challenged…. what will I do to back away from the neon sign of self-indulgence that our culture calls us to….. and embrace more fully the definition that my heart knows is true ….
“to care for the widows and orphans in their need”?
What can you do?
Lord God, There are so many needs … both near and far. Help me to see who and what is right in front of me. Give me a willing heart to respond to the needs You bring across my path. Keep my eyes open to the needs a far too and not allow them to fade from view simply because they aren’t right in front of me. Give me wisdom to know Your plan of response for me. We, as believers and followers of Jesus, are Your hands and feet. May we be moved by the needs You bring to our attention and may we be changed as we respond. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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