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  • Writer's pictureDavid and Marilynn Chadwick

A Word from James: Religion

by Marilynn Chadwick

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)

“I got religion” was the folksy expression I sometimes heard growing up in the deep South when someone accepted Jesus. As for me, I spent most of my high school years running away from religion. And from God. But the Lord lovingly pursued me and, in time, I surrendered to his free gift of grace. I came to understand that following Jesus was about a relationship—not a religion. Salvation was made possible only through the costly blood of God’s Son. No wonder they call it “Amazing Grace.”

James prods us to practice true religion. He’s not talking here about religion as a quick ticket to heaven. Rather, “religion,” in this context, refers to the practical expression of our devotion to the Lord: “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).

The Greek word translated “religion” is threskos—seldom used in the New Testament. It describes outward service rather than inward piety. It’s all about our actions. True religion, according to James, must involve acts of mercy, love, and holiness.

Let’s look at this same verse in the Amplified Bible: “External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world” (James 1:27 AMPC).

We are saved only by grace through faith. We must never stray from grace as the foundation for all our works. Good works cannot earn our salvation. But if we truly want to please the Lord, we’ll be intentional to pour our life out in service to the hurting ones around us. Especially the widows and orphans.

But James also reminds us we must never forget the purity of our own life. We are called to holiness. That’s the kind of religion that pleases the Lord.

So, let’s ask God to show us who is on his heart. May we be sensitive to his Spirit, alert to practical ways we can serve those in need. And while we’re at it, let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to correct us in areas we need to clean up—it’s far too easy to slide into the ways of the world. Today, as we step out into our world, let’s dare to pray the prayer God always answers: Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours.

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