The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Are You Religious?

Posted by israeliteindeed on June 19, 2014

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (Jam. 1:27)

I have heard many people say, “I’m a Christian, but I’m not religious.” What they generally mean is that they have a relationship with God (or at least think they do), and don’t put much emphasis on religious things (however they define that term.)

How we define the term “religious” matters very much. If “religious” means “judging myself by externals while ignoring my internal condition,” I am not religious. But if religious means “careful to obey the Scriptures so as to please my Lord,” then I am unashamedly religious, and hope to always be so!

The apostle James defined “pure and undefiled religion” for us. Its two major components are: mercifully caring for those who have no one to care for them, and keeping oneself unspotted from the world.

These two commands are nothing new.

Concerning the first component, even under the old covenant, God was concerned about how His people responded to the weak among them–widows, orphans, and even “strangers.” Would they leave the extra gleanings in their fields for the poor, or take every bit of food to enrich only themselves? Would they oppress those who couldn’t protect themselves–widows and orphans? (Is it really ok to put our elderly family members in nursing homes? Is it ok to kill our offspring or to ignore it when others do?) Would they mistreat the strangers among them, or would they treat the aliens well? (The uncharitable rants about immigration I have heard from “conservative Christian” mouths suggest most of us do not understand God’s heart for all people, or the responsibility He lays upon those who claim His name. If this is you, I recommend a more careful reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan.)

Concerning the second component of pure religion, God has always been concerned with His people “being unspotted.” He taught the people of Israel how to judge between what was clean and unclean, and reserved the right to decide for them what was allowable. I believe these lessons in discernment were intended to teach them deep spiritual truths that went way beyond food or touching dead bodies. The letter of the law was meant to lead them (and us) to the Spirit of the law. He was teaching them not to “eat” with no discernment, as do unbelievers. Unbelievers watch filth on tv, listen to satan’s musicians perverting truth on the radio, and touch “death” (sin) with no regard for how it will hurt them or others. God’s people were, and still are, to be set apart. Please hear me: Carefully discerning what pleases the Lord and avoiding the things He hates is not legalism. If God’s people become corrupt, how can they bring healing to the nations?

And so we see that God’s definition of “pure and undefiled religion” hasn’t changed, even though a new and better covenant has replaced and outshined the old. As we live in days of greater light, we also bear greater responsibility. Therefore I would challenge the “non-religious Christian” of today with these questions:

Are you defending the fatherless and pleading for the widow? Are you loving the stranger as you love yourself? (Lev. 19:34) If Muslim families from some war-torn country moved into the house to your left and the house to your right, how would you treat them? If you are a Christian, the question is not what their book tells them to do to you. The question is what YOUR BOOK says to do for them (and whether you will obey the Lord or not).

Are you keeping yourself “unspotted from the world”, cleansing yourself from ALL filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God? (2 Cor. 7:1) Note that there is filthiness of the flesh, and filthiness of the spirit. We are to cleanse ourselves from BOTH.

Or do you consider these things too religious for you?

If so, your relationship with God needs to be questioned.

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