I was standing outside the other evening when my neighbors got home. They have four children right now. Their two daughters are biological, and their two boys are their boys who have been with them since August through a foster care program. The younger of their two boys came up and gave me a big hug. I helped Devan, my neighbor, take his four kids around trick-or-treating at Halloween while Erin hung out with Allison, handing out candy to kids coming by. Devan and Allison are good people and it warms my heart seeing them interact with their boys. No matter what happens in their lives, Devan and Allison have gifted them with a picture of what family looks and feels like. Their daughters, who treat them like brothers, know a deeper level of love because they have witnessed their parents love others as their own. As I continually witness this beautiful existence from across the yard, I realize the essence of what James is saying in James 1:27,
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Take a moment to read James 1:22-27. Here are some questions to consider as we prepare for Sunday:
- How is taking care of orphans and widows pure and faultless religion?
- What does this have to do with the heart of the Gospel?
- When James says, “Do not merely listen to the word…do what it says,” what is the word he is speaking about? At this point, the New Testament as we have it, was not yet finished.
- Amos 5:21-24 – The prophet Amos contrasts “religious worship” with “justice” and “righteousness.” What does justice and righteousness have to do with God’s anger towards their worship? What does this have to do with widows and orphans?
I think this was one of the first passages of Scripture to resonate and transform my thinking about the Christian walk. Early on as a child, I remember looking around at everyone and thinking about how we’re all children of God, no matter where you’ve come from or what you’ve done. I did a short devotional on it in the 5th grade at church camp one summer. Even when I read it now I get a little emotional thinking about God being Father. Not just Father to me, but Father to all of us. There are a few things that need to be pointed out in this passage. The Jews, God’s chosen people, come into Sonship through Jesus in the same way that the Gentiles do. When Paul talks about receiving “adoption to sonship,” he is using the same term used for becoming a full blown Roman citizen, with all of the benefits that comes with it. Just in case we miss it, Paul makes sure we understand what it means to be adopted. We become an heir because we receive the same Spirit as his Son. It is in this adoption that we know what Family feels like and we learn to love like Family because we all came into this Family the same way. Our Father loves us. When we take others into our house of love, they experience the Love of God in a way that leaves a lasting memory as to what Family is supposed to look like. That’s why Jesus says:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35