Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pure Religion

You all, I am not Catholic, but I really like this new Pope.  He's visiting the United States today and instead of breaking bread with leaders in Congress, he's dining with the homeless.

That. Is. Awesome!

The news is all over Facebook, as if it's somehow shocking.  And I suppose it is when you stop and think about it.  In our upside down world it's strange to forgo the opportunity to rub elbows with the powerful and instead minister to the needy.  So when someone actually lives his faith, we're surprised.  Even when that person's job is to live their faith.

James 1:27 says "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."

How many of us who claim to be Christians do this?  Who among us would chose the homeless over the leaders of the Senate.  Not too many I think.  Especially considering that in the U.S. we seem to have equated being Christian with our political party.

Now I am all for voting your conscience.  And I'm aware of how blessed we are in this country to be able to vote, especially when so many in the world don't have a say in their political process.

But as a Christian, I'm even more in favor of  living our faith than talking about it or mixing it up with politics.   We talk a lot, but we're not doing much of anything.  We're way too comfortable.  Pure religion, actually living our faith makes us uncomfortable.  We don't want that.

Can I tell you something?  God doesn't care about our political affiliation.  He cares about the way we treat each other.  Over and over again, Jesus told us to love each other.  I don't see very much of that today.  In the story of the Good Samaritan, the religious leaders crossed the street to avoid the injured man.  It was the Samaritan--someone the religious people shunned--who helped the man.

Jesus changed the world through his radical love.  As Christians, we have to ask ourselves whether our love is radical.  Are we reaching out to those in need?  Are we walking out our faith?  Or are we just yelling at anyone who disagrees with us, and then sitting back in self-righteousness?  In effect, crossing to the other side of the street when we see someone hurt and bleeding.

I'm afraid that most of us in the U.S. would choose dinner with Congress as opposed to dinner with the homeless.  And before we get all self-righteous and say, "No way.  We'd pick the homeless," take a moment to really examine that statement.  If it were true, we'd be out there feeding the homeless right now.  Nothing's stopping us.  In fact, Jesus even said, "when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind." Luke 14:13

Very few of us do so.  Why is that?  Why are we so shocked when someone actually lives his faith?  Has pure religion really become that rare in our society?  I hope not.  I hope that more of us will be moved by the Pope's example and choose those in need over those in power.

"But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds."  James 2:18

You all, let's stop talking and start doing.

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