During these summer months, in the Sunday morning worship services, we are slowly working our way through the book of James.
We are trying to "dig into" the text a bit more than we usually do on Sunday mornings. So the sermon is a combination of both preaching and teaching.
But even though we are trying to slow down a bit and "dig into" the text we are still missing parts of the passage.
Yesterday we were looking at James 1:13-27. We looked at most of this amazing passage but someone asked a question about the final phrase of the passage that we did not look at: "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 1:27).
What does that final phrase mean? What does it mean to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world"? Good question!
Here is what Doug Moo says in his commentary on James regarding this final phrase:
The third mark of true religion is more general than the other two and also less concrete: to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James is careful not to give the impression that religion pleasing to God consists simply in outward acts or in social action. The “world” is a common biblical way of referring to the ungodly worldview and lifestyle that characterize human life in its estrangement from the creator. Christians who have ended that estrangement by accepting the reconciling work of God in Christ must constantly work to distance themselves from the way of life that surrounds us on every side—to keep themselves “spotless” (a literal rendering of the Greek word here) from the world’s contaminating influence" [Moo, D. J. (2000). The letter of James (p. 97). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos].
Thank you for those good works, Doug.
Along with the others marks of "true religion" this mark also points us to the character of God. The Triune God is holy. Life through and in this Triune God is a holy life, it is a unique different-than-the-world life. For me this is especially true of the way we think--our general values and attitudes about life. This is why Paul writes in Romans 12:
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:1-2).
Our minds--our thinking, values and attitudes--must be different than those of the world. This includes things like:
- God is real, present and active in our world--He is not, like the world believes, non-existent or a deist kind of God]
- All human life is precious and sacred--not only certain lives [whether that be based on gender, race or age] are sacred
- Our bodies are sacred and what we do with our bodies matters--our bodies not simply for us to use however we want to
- We are called to love all people, including our enemies--not only loving those who love us
And the list can go on and on...
As James remind us: let's keep ourselves from being polluted by the world, especially in our thinking, values and attitudes.