Religion That is Pure and Undefiled (James 1:27) - Radical

Religion That is Pure and Undefiled (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.”
(James 1:27)

What a statement. Religion that is pure before God, that is acceptable before God is not just sitting in a service, singing songs, studying God’s word, gathering together with a church, going through a lot of the things we might picture in the normal Christian life. No, religion before God our father, that is pure and undefiled is visiting orphans and widows in their distress. That’s a powerful word, to visit. It’s really fascinating when you look at it in the New Testament and a few times in the Old Testament Greek translation, it’s not just a come to somebody like visit them, drop in and then leave. It’s so much deeper than that. To visit someone in the language here, in the New Testament, is to come to someone with a responsibility to care for them.

Lord, please do not let us neglect what you have declared to be pure and undefiled. Help us to take responsibility for caring for orphans and widows.

Just listen to a few other places this word is used in the Bible. Genesis chapter 50, verse 24. Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.” Basically Joseph saying to his brothers, God is going to come and bring you into the land that he has promised to you. He’s going to, not just visit and leave, he’s going to take responsibility to care for you, to provide for you.

Luke chapter one, verse 68. Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people. That’s a reference to Jesus coming. He has visited us. He didn’t just come and kind of stop in for a visit. He came to save us, to take responsibility for caring for us.

Luke chapter seven, verse 16. Fear sees them all and they glorify God saying, a great prophet has arisen among us and God has visited his people. Again, a picture of Jesus. He’s a picture of the visitation of God among us. You look at Acts chapter 15, verse 14. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for his name. This is talking about how God brought salvation to the Gentiles, to the nations.

So over and over and over again in the Bible we see this word visit in terms of taking responsibility to care for someone. So what is pleasing to God in religion, when his people take responsibility to care for orphans and take responsibility to care widows. So I ask you, in your life and your life as a follower of Jesus, how is this playing out? How are you caring for orphans and widows in your life, in your family, in your church? This is religion. This is serious language from God. This is religion that is pure and undefiled before God.

So we are compelled to pray. God help us to take responsibility to care for orphans and God we pray right now for kids who don’t have a mom or dad. We pray that you would give us sensitivity to them and help us to see ways we can care for them and help us to take responsibility for doing that. God, we pray for this in our lives, in our families in our churches, that we would be an expression of your love as father to the fatherless. God we think about the millions of orphans in the world. I think about where I was just a little while ago in Ethiopia with a massive orphan crisis there. God, I pray that you would help the church to visit, to care for these children and the church around the world to work together and places like that and places right around us.

God, please help us to reflect your love for the fatherless, to the orphan and to the widow. God, we pray for those who have lost a spouse and experienced grief and oftentimes experienced lack of provision in this way or that way. God, help us as your children to care for them as our family, to love them as a brother or sister in Christ and to take responsibility to make sure they are provided for. God, please, we pray, don’t let us sing our songs and study your word and do all kinds of activity in the church as followers of yours and neglect that which you have said is pure and undefiled before you. Make us followers of Christ and churches that visit, take responsibility to care for widows and orphans. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

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