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. (NIV)
This verse is one that sits behind many foster and orphan care ministries around the world, but what does it mean? Is it saying that the only ‘true’ expression of our Christian faith is to ‘look after orphans and widows’ and who are the orphans and widows in our modern world? And ‘to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ is a pretty bold statement, that by doing one – caring for the orphans and widows – you will not be polluted by the world?
Disclaimer I am not theologically trained at all and just a believer trying daily to live out my faith in my life, home and community.
At Fostering Hope, like many other foster and orphan-care ministries around the world, we use this verse as core to our work (Arizona 1:27 even have the verse in their name).
How does it play out in action, what I see amongst the foster and kinship care community I support in Tasmania, is Christians opening their homes to vulnerable children as an expression of their faith, as a tangible way of showing God’s love for them in their lives and their desire to show this love to children who need a home. That love extends to birth families, siblings, case workers, social workers, and others. In turn these carers say they are more reliant on God, spend more time on their knees in prayer, more time searching their Bible for answers, and asking others for prayer over their families.
I think this verse is saying, the inner love we feel from God as believers, needs to be expressed outwardly. And the more we do this, the more our ‘religion’ will be pure and faultless. So many carers have expressed to me that being a carer has opened up so many more conversations about faith and why they do what they do than ever before – because rather than us just talking about our faith and following a ‘religion’ we are living our religion by opening our homes.
I think this verse is talking about ‘love in action’ and that we are most like God when we are giving, sharing, comforting, praying and supporting others who are unable or unwilling to reciprocate. It is this selfless action is evidence that we are followers of Christ, not our religion. We are all called to reflect the love God has for us to the outside world, his sacrificial love that we don’t deserve, and putting the needs of vulnerable children is doing that.
Fostering is ‘love in action’ but so are lots of other great things people do.
How is God calling you to live out James 1:27 today?