Religion, Pure

Religion, Pure
by Rubel Shelly

Published in LoveLines (Sept. 29, 1993)

Hallmarks of Pure Religion

"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" (Jas. 1:27).

As surely as there are negative, unhealthy, and addictive ways to practice religion, there is a way that is faithful to God intention. This "pure and faultless" approach to the Christian faith generates personal fulfillment and honors Christ.

The first thing to notice about authentic religion is that it is always relationship oriented. As opposed to seeing Christianity as a plan or system, Scripture reveals that everything reduces to two great commandments about loving God and neighbor. It is love for God that keeps one free of the world's pollutions; it is love for neighbor that makes one sensitive to people in distress. Addictive approaches to religion pile up good works and try to win acceptance; true religion accepts God's unconditional love and passes it on to others.

Second, pure religion is lived within community. The society of God called "the church" is a body of supportive and nurturing people who worship together, pray for one another, and pay attention to one another's needs. Work, education, family, moral choices -- all things are seen in terms of the values embraced and affirmed by the Body of Christ. Without being meddlesome or intrusive, believers have a reasonable sense of responsibility for the welfare of others.

Third, genuine Christian faith acts on its profession of love and community to bring about increased social justice. Widows, orphans, homeless persons, people with AIDS, crime's victims and perpetrators -- no one is excluded from the love of God that is mediated through his faithful people. Because God cares about people in distress, his church ministers to them.

Fourth, the people who live their faith in such a healthy way are reassured by the indwelling Spirit of God and experience a sense of personal well-being, assurance, and peace in their daily lives. In other words, they move from the insecurity and fear of religion addiction to Christ-centered confidence. They no longer live in anxiety but trust, no longer live in fear of hell but in hope of heaven, no longer work to be accepted but rejoice in God's grace.

How sad that so many eat the empty husks of religion addiction when God meant us to know the abundance of authentic faith.

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