The home that I grew up in was fractured at best. I was a preacher’s kid. My father preached and my mother lead the choir. At church we were always dressed in our Sunday best, always smiling. We had to look the part and in most cases I believe we pulled that off. We had to keep superficial relationships, but even those remained at arms length because to get too close meant you might see imperfection, you might see chaos, hurt, anger, loneliness and levels of dysfunction too deep and painful to speak of here. What went on within the four walls that we called home was nothing of what was seen at church on Sunday…not even a shadow of the truth because we were a ‘religious’ family. We hid behind our title, we made sure that we did all of the right things and had all of the right appearances, most of all we made it a point to never tell the truth of what home life was like to anyone. Part of keeping up with those appearances was not only in what we didn’t say it was in what we didn’t do. We were religious…so that meant no joining the band, no going to parties, no real friendships with anyone ‘unchurched’, to name a mere few. There was never an option ‘to be real’ but always – always – we were to have it together. Somehow my parents, and many of their generation, thought they were adhering to these verses found in James – ‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 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. James 1:26-27 They thought that by avoiding or ignoring the things of this world that was ‘keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.’ But that is NOT what James means here. How did they miss such obvious truth?
It has taken many painful years to learn to be genuine, to learn that ‘being religious’ is not the goal. I do not have it together -and to try to spend all of my time trying to convince you I do and not be concerned about your heart or your walk is foolish, and that time worthless. This is such a tender subject to me as it brings up childhood memories I would very much like left hidden away, but it is a subject that still rears it’s head up even today. Praise the Lord…let me say that one more time…PRAISE the LORD that He brought me out of that home and into a true understanding of what being His entails.
James concludes his thought by simply expressing that we need to be compassionate down to the ones who are at the lowest and most vulnerable position. That means we’re gonna have to get our hands dirty and we’re gonna have to risk our own hearts for the heart of another. Here is my paraphrasing – ‘You say you love Jesus. You say he is in your heart and who you live your life for. If that’s true that’s gonna be evident in how you live, how you love, how you accept, how you forgive, how you’re compassionate. It’s more than talk. If you’re just talking the talk – be quiet. If it is genuine – it will be evident by how it pours out of you. It’s gonna mean that you’re gonna have to step down from your high horse and get down and dirty. When you do get out in the world – to love the unloved, to encourage the broken, to hold the abandoned, to protect the insecure…protect your heart. In your attempts to love those of the world…don’t fall victim yourself.’ James NEVER says don’t be in the world. He NEVER says don’t reach out to the world. Just merely – remember that when you have faith in Jesus, he goes with you, he’s in you – don’t pollute that, don’t lose that, don’t neglect that hope. It’s not about being religious. It’s not about following an endless list of do’s and don’ts. It’s not about appearances. It’s about loving a God who is crazy in love with us. It’s about taking that love into the world. It’s about holding tight to Him so that the world that wants to suck us in can never get that grip. May we stop desiring to be religious and just desire to be His!
My prayer for Today…
Lord…this subject hits such a tender nerve with me. Lord, at the end of the day…I want nothing more than to be your girl. I want to be a genuine reflection of the relationship that I have with you; loving others as you would love them, spreading the truth of your great love. I desperately long to lose the title of ‘religious’ and just simply be ‘yours’. Help me where I stumble…hold me when I fall. I love you…Amen.