By the Rev. Dr. Lakeya Stewart
Have you ever wondered what pure religion was? I mean, the type of religion that God really desires from His people? Does it involve a particular dress or communion on a particular Sunday? Does it involve one’s pious devotion to Holy Days and the eating of selective food? While those things can be beneficial and for some are a requirement for their view of salvation, I would like to offer what the scriptures say about pure religion.
James 1:27 says:
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
The text here is pretty straightforward. Pure religion involves interactions with others and more importantly relationship. It occurs when believers take their responsibility to minister to others (we are all called to share the Gospel) seriously.
When discussing this topic and scripture with someone, I was asked who the “fatherless” really referred to because many people have biological fathers who are in their lives who walk beside their children “in their affliction” as the scripture points out. In scripture, God is viewed as also being a father. As the older generation often proclaim, “He’s a father to the fatherless!” Those of us who recite the “Lord’s Prayer” begin the prayer with the words “Our Father….” These are only but a few examples of the use of “Father” in scripture to depict the believer’s relationship with God. Simply put, the “fatherless” in this scripture refers to unbelievers and those believers who have fallen away from God.
My husband and I recently visited someone in jail. This person expressed joy and displayed signs of hope when we visited. They also expressed the failure of the church to be living out the “pure religion” that scripture speaks of. The person noted what hope people of the Jehovah’s Witness faith bring to the inmates on a consistent basis. I wondered what was stopping me from visiting as I had done at a jail in Kentucky. I was challenged.
The second part of the scripture in James speaks of the believer’s responsibility to remain “unspotted from the world.” “The world” offers many deceiving “things” to believers like fame and riches. Those things can come to believers but believers with fame and riches must ensure that they are seeking God first! It can be a challenge to deny ourselves if we are not striving to keep our relationship with God as most important in our lives. Those who fail to keep God first often times end up idolizing their career, their education, their children, and even their spouses.
The responsibility of the believer is to visit those who are incarcerated in the correctional facilities, those who are sick in body and mind, and those who are generally without hope in life. So, as we go about another week, let us ask ourselves the responsible question, “Do I have a pure religion?” God bless.
For questions or further correspondence concerning future topics or speaking engagements, please email at RevStewartSpeaks@outlook.com.
The Rev. Dr. Lakeya Stewart, M.Div., D.Min., ABD attended Berea College and the Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and earned a double major B.A. degree in Sociology and in African & African American Studies as well as the Master of Divinity Degree. Rev. Stewart is currently writing a dissertation on Toxic Leadership and Spiritual Abuse through Regent University.