The Heart of True Religion

“You know, we [abuse victims] make people that are having a wonderful, ‘no worries’  life, uncomfortable.”  [Teresa, abuse survivor]

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

For some reason, the Apostle James was faced with an infestation of false religion parading as Christianity.  It was faith without works.  Now, we all as Christians should know that the righteousness by which we are righteous before God is NOT of our own creation.  We do not work our way into heaven.  Oh, we are indeed made righteous before God by works, but those works are not ours.  They are the works of the Lord Jesus Christ in our behalf.   HE obeyed God’s Law perfectly.  HE took our sin upon Himself on the cross.  So it is an alien righteousness, not of our own making, that is credited to our account when we come to genuine faith in Christ as our only Lord and Savior.

However, where there is authentic faith, wherever a heart has been re-made by Christ, there will also be the fruit of good works.  We can’t boast about those even, they are God’s creation (Ephesians 2:8-10).  But they will be there.  Christians love one another with the love of Christ. James says that if a man claims to have faith (claims to be a Christian) but his life is devoid of works, he is liar.  That man’s faith is a dead faith.  Counterfeit.  We are “justified” by our works in that our works, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, justify that our claim to faith in Christ is genuine.

The evil of abuse brings much of this into clarity.  First, the abuser who claims to be a Christian is exposed by his wicked ways.  He is not a Christian.  A person cannot be an abuser by nature and be a Christian.  It is impossible.  Second, the existence of abuse exposes whether or not WE are Christians.  By “we,” I mean the church.  Other people who profess to be Christians.  James says that pure, undefiled religion is characterized by visiting orphans and widows in their affliction (and by not being conformed to this evil world).

As Teresa’s quote (above) so accurately notes, victims of abuse make comfortable people uncomfortable.  Here comes this mother and her children.  They have, well, problems.  Big problems.  The car is broken down and no one to fix it.  The kids often seem to have relational problems.  Mom is stressed.  Mom isn’t fun to talk to because her children and the threats of her abuser are always on her mind.  She is in need.  In other words, what you’ve got right in front of you is a widow and orphans.  And if you step in to help her, it is going to cost you.  Big time. Financially.  Emotionally.  You might get into some danger because her abuser just ain’t gonna like it at all.  You might be accused of breaking up a marriage if you don’t try to talk her into going back to the guy and trying harder.  She rocks your comfy boat.  And most people, even most professing Christians, would rather see her go find another church.

I bet the Jewish man who was beaten and robbed was really glad that the Good Samaritan came along.  That Samaritan was radical.  He took radical action.  He stopped what he was doing and put his plans and comfort on hold.  He put his money where is mouth was.  He loved that Jew and took care of him over the long haul.

The first two religious types that came by, well, they just couldn’t be bothered.  “It’s a tough world out there, you know, but we can’t be expected to fix everything.  Why, if you worry about all of that stuff, you will go crazy.”

Jesus doesn’t expect us to worry about and fix “all” of that stuff.  But He does expect us – He commands us – to worry about and do what we can to fix the plight of the widow and orphan He places in our path.  He makes us uncomfortable.  And He requires us to take action.

James 2:14-17, What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (15) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (17) So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

An Appearance of Godliness (Part 7) – The Real Thing

As we look at case after case of evil people disguised with an appearance of godliness, I wanted to insert this refreshing case of the real thing. True godliness. It is found in the book of Ruth and there, in the person of Boaz. Boaz is an obvious type (symbol) of Christ and of course he and Ruth were in the very linage of the Messiah.

Here is true godliness. This is real Christianity. Here is how genuine people of God respond when a poor, oppressed victim of evil asks for help. Notice in particular that Ruth was a Moabite. A Moabite! From a nation that was an enemy of Israel. She was you could say, unclean. Not to be touched. What Boaz did was, if I am not mistaken, illegal! And yet not only did he rescue her and take her in as his wife, he was blessed by the Lord for doing so! 

This is then also an example of how the Word of God is to be interpreted and applied. He requires mercy, not sacrifice. His Word is to be understood and followed according to the spirit in which He gave it, not coldly by “the letter.” This does not mean we make Scripture out to say what we want it to say. No, it means that we interpret it exactly as the Lord intends for it to be understood. This is the very point that Jesus so often went at it in His conflicts with the Pharisees over the Sabbath and other points of doctrine.

How then, according to Christ, is the church to deal with oppressed lambs such as victims of domestic violence? Well, essentially this short portion from Ruth answers that question. Here it is and it is a very appropriate Scripture to read on Christmas day. Christ is born!

Continue reading “An Appearance of Godliness (Part 7) – The Real Thing”