The tagline for this post is really it’s entire substance, but I have to say I’m thinking anew about a topic that I have long thought about as more of a “special justice issue” for those who have a particular heart for it; that is, the church’s place in caring for widows and orphans.
Not long into his letter to the dispersed Jewish Christians of the early church, James says this:
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. (James 1:27)
You might say, “Well, what are you talking about? Isn’t ‘being religious’ a bad thing in Midwestern, Charismatic Christianity?”
No, no, no – we’re not talking about the use of the word “religion” that becomes synonymous with man-made and yet unfruitful attempts to make God like us (which is weird – don’t do that. He already likes you.) I think what James is saying here is more along the lines of, “do want to really worship God – like for real? Beyond all the music of worship services and ceremonies, the purest form of worship to God is this: visit the orphans and windows in the middle of their distress and keep yourself unstained by the world and its ways that forsake God.”
There’s probably so much in that verse alone that I won’t lay claim to somehow being able to expound on all of it, but what’s striking me is the high place that James gives not only to living holy before God (which we probably already have some kind of grid for), but also to the church’s association with the orphan and the widow.
Like, it really matters to God. Do we want to look like Jesus? I don’t know that what James is talking about is entirely fulfilled in throwing our money in a bucket for the charity down the road that does this work. I’m starting to see that this might just be, more than I ever thought before, the important work of every believer. Just as every believer is called to testify faithfully about Jesus to the people around them that don’t know Him or acknowledge Him, there’s this other call: to meet the most vulnerable members of society at eye level, in the middle of their pain, and to be present with them in their distress.
Who do I know that is suffering and lives a house over from me in my neighborhood? What do I do with the child that is parentless in my own backyard? How do I treat the single mom who’s doing the whole mothering-working-surrogate-fathering all by herself? Will I actually rise up and give of myself because I love Jesus so that they might know how present He is with them in their suffering? Yes, this will cost time and energy and emotional strength, but is this not part of who we are and who we are to be as we love Jesus until He returns?
Until He Comes,