I woke up this morning thinking how Christianity is actually a very simple (yet profoundly transformational) religion (although I dislike the word “religion” since it does so little to actually describe the deep satisfaction and love of living in relationship with God–the whole Trinity of God-family ). I was thinking how “lost” I was before I came to an understanding of Christ, but really lost is the wrong word–it was more like I had “amnesia.” It was like I had no idea of who I was, or where I had come from, or who loved me and cherished me. I had forgotten I had a spiritual family, and so I acted as a lost little orphan: sad, distressed, looking for love, and always wary of the world around me. When I became a Christian, I awoke from my amnesia: I saw a family around me, and with me, I found love and comfort and a home. Upon waking from my amnesia, I realized where I came from, and who I am, and why I was created: “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph 2:10). I was transformed.
I then thought about how every person in the world is created to represent and live in unity and love with the God family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), but like I once was, most people have amnesia, and so they act like orphans, and they learn to either take care of themselves…or perhaps, not take care of themselves.
I then thought about the words of Jesus before he died and rose to heaven: “I will not leave you orphaned” (John 14:18). Jesus then sent to his followers the Holy Spirit, another parent who walks with us and guides us. I am happy to say today that I am not an orphan. I have the Holy Spirit with me (and that relationship has been not only spiritual, but also deeply personal), and therefore I feel completely secure and loved–and that love is what transforms me, from the inside out…but what about all the other orphans out there?
This question then made me think about this verse: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
Four things stuck out for me in that verse:
1. My job is to care for those who are orphaned (those who have no family…even those who do not know about the spiritual family of God). How do I care for them? Well, that’s simple–by doing good works and becoming their family, and by introducing them to the family of God;
2. My job is to care for the widows (those people who have no spouse and therefore no help). How do I care for them? By becoming their help and by letting them know that God can fill the role of helper:
“For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is his name;
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
For the LORD has called you
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit…” (Is 54:5–6).
3. My job is to keep MYSELF unstained from the world (in other words, my job isn’t to force others to keep themselves unstained–I can only control myself).
4. I also realized that the “pure religion” of God can become “unpure” and “defiled.” So, naturally, I began thinking about those things that might possibly damage the pure religion of God: NOT CARING FOR THE ORPHANS AND WIDOWS; NOT KEEPING MYSELF UNSTAINED .
How does one NOT care for orphans? How does one become STAINED: I’m sure there are many ways, but one stood out to me…
-letting your heart become cold;
“And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12).
The increase of evil can cause even the most loving Christian to get fed up and stop caring. (Have you ever been there? I know I have.) The apostles were certainly there. Remember how James and John got mad at the Samaritans and said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. (See Lk 9:54–55.)
So let’s not give up, let’s not grow cold. After all, it is the cold heart that begins to judge and says, “This world is so evil, God will surely just strike us all down.” In fact, I’ve noticed that when my heart begins to grow cold, I sort of want God to judge everyone with a swift arm of destruction. But a loving heart pleads for forgiveness and mercy without giving up. (Slightly harder to do.)
Don’t you find that often times, when we take our eyes off ourselves and instead place them on our neighbor, we get over interested in their business? We then become their judge and soon we forget about watching our own hearts. Then suddenly we’re stained, standing there with a cold, unloving heart. When this happens, it might be good to meditate on Jesus’ words:
“Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Ro 14:10).
In other words, there is a time set for judgment, right now we are in a time of mercy.
So, I guess this is the simplicity of my “religion” that I believe will transform the world:
I am not an orphan; I have a family–an amazing family. They are known as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and they have made the whole universe and they sustain everything that lives. My job is to represent the truth of my family by caring for those who are still orphans and showing them what I have come to know–that God is a family that loves us and cares for us, a family that works to transform us. And while doing this, I must watch my heart so that I truly care; I must watch out for judgement (or I may condemn myself along the way). I will choose to love as Jesus loves. I will choose to trust the Holy Spirit to transform the world.
We are all in this together; it is not us against them. It is us for us; us helping us; us caring for us. Even if only 5% of the world were to decide to follow Christ, I will choose to love them all. Why? Because this is what I was created for, and when I waiver from this profound love (as I am sure I will do from time to time) I pray that the Holy Spirit will realign my heart. I want to be like Stephen, who when his own brothers and sisters were stoning him to death cried out: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
To learn more about the Holy Spirit and how the Spirit is working to transform the world through the love of Christ, visit us at the MotherHeart Conference in Richland, WA, May 4th 2013. Meet our speakers HERE.
-deidre – firstname.lastname@example.org
Verses from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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