When I was in college, and on the way to Orthodoxy, but still not even knowing that it existed, it was fashionable in my circle to deny that we were “religious”. This was a four letter word to us – we arrogantly and ignorantly (I know now) stated that we were “Christian” and NOT “religious”.
If we knew our bible as well as we thought we did, we would never say such a thing – or at least we would admit that although we were not “religious” because of our own weaknesses and sins, were were striving for pure religion.
“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.”
Are you religious? I am not – to state this unequivocally is to state that I love God with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind, and as a result of this, also loving my neighbor as myself .
It is interesting how we sometimes say things that are true, but with false understanding. After, lo, after these many years, I still state that I am not religious, but the reasons why I say it are so much different. Perhaps a little bit, in my life, I have been religious, and those times have been the best times for my soul. I can honestly say that I desire to have pure religion.
The key to this purity is not the first part what the brother of the Lord, James, tells us, but the second part.
From purity of heart flows all good works toward all men. Pure religion is the changing of the soul – from dark to light, from impure to pure, from ignorant concerning virtue to knowledge of all things holy. This knowledge is a gained by our learning the commandments of God and applying them to our lives. We do not become “unspotted from the world” by performing good works – we do good works because the love of Gods fills us, and purifies us.
Let us strive for “pure religion”, or put another way, to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only”.
PS. In college I was part of “Campus Crusade for Christ” for a while, until The Holy Spirit showed me that their way of life was not “all truth”, as He promised he would lead us to. There were many admirable people in that group, but their faith was too shallow. They did not understand that pure religion means being part of the church – they did not understand where the church was and where it was not. There were many good souls . May God save them.
James 1:19-27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. 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.