Religion gets a lot of bad press these days. Not that I would disagree, either-it’s just that sometimes we need to define the term before we lambast it. Religion as most people refer to it is self-effort; man trying to make his way to God or be like God. Lots of rules and regulations; church hierarchies, systems, ect. In this vein I would agree: religion does not serve us very well.
But James, in his letter to dispersed Jewish believers, speaks of something he calls “true religion.” True religion, it turns out, has nothing to do with belief systems and ritualistic devotion to a certain form or code of law; rather, true religion is all about “visiting orphans and widows in their affliction, and keeping yourself unstained from the world.”
A fairly simple, yet workable, definition. I do believe James was on to something.
Anyway, that was just my preface. This verse of scripture has come back to my heart time and again in the past three or four months, and tonight was one of those nights. My wife and I took our kids to visit my “mammaw.” In the course of our visit I was able to help her move some things around and lift some heavy objects which I’m glad she won’t be trying to move herself. It was a simple act, really, not worth mentioning otherwise, but all of the sudden in the midst of performing it I realized how alive I was to God. I’m not kidding you, there was a sense of the Lord so immediate and so real it was just like breathing Him in to know He was near.
It was only a passing thought, but it made me curious as to how much time we Christians spend trying to “feel” God’s presence via worship services, devotional activities, and a whole slew of other methods by which we try to “get” it. In that moment I saw the vanity and frivolity of so many such exercises, all so self-centered and bound up with our human “doing” and “trying” to be rather than simply being sons and daughters of God. It’s becoming increasingly evident to me that to “find” the Lord you simply spend time going to and being where He is. The places that come immediately to mind are the church (probably not what you’re thinking, though), the Spirit (in your spirit), the poor (see Matthew 25), and in my case tonight, the orphan and the widow. Just by serving my mammaw in that simple way I became conscious-undeniably conscious-of an absolutely splendid oneness with God.
What about you? Have you ever had an experience like this? In what practical ways is God alive and real to you?