Pure and Genuine Religion is this…

Pure and Genuine Religion
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This Sunday Morning Devotional contrasts the Biblical perspective of pure and genuine religion against the diversion of Christian politics.


 

The tumult and anxiety continued this week as the Kavanaugh hearings moved toward their final destination and the newest Supreme Court Justice’s confirmation in the Senate yesterday. Many Christians will mark this as a victory for the purposes of God in the United States. A few will believe it’s the end of the world.

Pure and Genuine Religion

Personally, I support a pro-life position and place this cause as a high priority in my political perspectives and responsibilities. But I also know that God is sovereign and His purposes will reign and be fulfilled in the US and throughout the world regardless of the Senate’s vote. God is not subject to the US Senate. All things work toward His purposes. And that process does not have to meet my criteria for either comfort or political priorities. He is in charge!

 

What is more concerning is the confusion among believers who have mistaken Kavanaugh’s victory as a victory for the Christian faith. (This was the compromise I referred to in last week’s Sunday morning devotional where we misappropriate political strength for Christian standards.) They are not the same thing. We can win the whole world on the political front and still lose our souls in the process (Mark 8:36). Christian faith and political victories are not synonymous.

 

James 1:27 says, What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.

 

This is not a legalistic code to protect widows and establish orphanages. It is a call to the foundational standard of compassion through which believers should confront the world.  I note this due to the rampant tragedies that are flowing throughout the world today while most of our attention is diverted to politics.

 

Last weekend a tsunami hit the nation of Indonesia. In the first few hours more than forty people were reported dead. That number has increased daily as the local residents recovered more bodies of the victims of the tsunami. As of Friday the total death count was at more than 1,400.

 

In the US the story of this tragedy has barely registered in the mainstream media. The major television news networks told about the tsunami by way of a scrolling chyron at the bottom of the screen while their main story remained focused on protests in Washington. The lack of video might account for some measure of coverage on television but even online a search for the current death count found only one major US publication in the first page of Google’s results. The remaining results were either related to the 2004 tsunami or non US publications. Fourteen hundred dead people in a tsunami is not major news like the Supreme Court hearings.

 

The foolishness of the media and its default tilt toward that which draws outrage is not new and it is not surprising. What is surprising is the lack of attention given to the tsunami among the Christian community. In a scan of some of the most popular voices, leaders and publications of those who are popularly associated with Christianity in America I found a barrage of statements, exhortations and editorials related to the Kavanaugh hearings. I found hardly a single reference to the tsunami or its victims!

 

What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.

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We Aren’t Naturally Compassionate

 

Adam Smith is the famous economist of the 18th century who wrote The Wealth of Nations which stands as one of the foundational doctrines of capitalism for the world today. In another, less popular book The Theory of Moral Sentiments Smith noted the peculiar behavior of human beings when it comes to pain and suffering:

 

Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befall himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own.

 

The base nature of mankind is self-focused. When we are not self-focused we are focused on that which seems to most directly impact our lives and interests. Compassion for others is not a natural state of being. It is a posture that is linked to the higher calling which God calls his people to live from.

 

Be Aware – But More Importantly, Be Compassionate

 

The issue is not either/or when it comes to Christian involvement and attention to politics versus compassion for the world around us. It should be both. It is not a problem to follow the Supreme Court hearings or political contests. The problem is the prioritization we give to these events and circuses. We have very obviously fallen into a trap where politics are prioritized far and above the events and tragedies of the world around us. To make matters worse we have begun to associate our Christian faith to these perspectives

 

What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.

The war for our souls and the war for right and wrong and truth are not found in politics. In the gospels it was the religious leaders who were closely related and attuned to the political realities of their day. These were the ones Jesus referred to as blind guides and hypocrites. They knew the ways of the world around them but they consistently lacked compassion for their neighbors.

 

No matter if yesterday’s confirmation gave you cause for celebrating or cause for mourning, a higher call gives us a call go deeper. Let’s be challenged to move beyond the shallowness of our politics and into the richness of our faith and walk with God through His Son Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

JB Shreve and the End of History

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