Religion – A Dirty Word?

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Religion. It has almost become a dirty world in our society. People are fond of saying that they are spiritual but not religious. What does that mean?

Maybe they are alluding to a desire to maintain some form of connection with God without having to adhere to all the trappings of so-called “manmade” rules and regulations.

Could it be that we Christians have complicated the message? Maybe the world is confused because we too often water down the Word with our own muddy interpretation leaving people stuck in the mire of semantics.

But before throwing out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak, maybe we should consider this simple and straightforward Bible definition:

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

I have often heard the first part of this verse quoted but not the latter. Apparently, taking care of others is equally as important as keeping ourselves from being polluted, or as one version reads “unstained”, by the world.

But how on earth is this possible?

Once again, through the powerful Word of God. This passage from James 1:19-27 makes it clear.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 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. 

I had a woman tell me recently, a Christian woman, that she doesn’t like rules. That’s a dangerous thing to say. The Bible is full of them. A civil society is dependent on them.  And our lives are better when we adhere to them. Jesus taught that we are to submit to the laws of God and the laws of man so that we might be at peace. The alternative is assuming a certain prideful arrogance that says we can live however we want with no consequences. And to do that is to harbor within ourselves the same spirit of rebellion that got Lucifer cast out of heaven.

When we realize that the rules established by the church and organized religion were originally an attempt to reflect the laws of God, we begin to see that there is great purpose and importance to be found in them. Although our interpretation, the church’s interpretation, will not always be perfect, we need to respectfully submit to the overall intent while guarding ourselves against outright deception:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Romans 16:17-18

So there is a balance. But when everything is bathed in the pure flow of God’s holy word, we can clearly see what is worth keeping. We reject lies. We hold tight to truth. After all, following “the perfect law that gives freedom” is meant for our safety and blessing.

That’s why we don’t “throw out the baby with the bathwater”. Because, with God’s help, we are able to discern the gleaming goodness in the midst of all the muddy mess.