How does GOD view and define ‘TRUE’ RELIGION’?
The epistle of James is one of the most practical books ever found in the New Testament. In the above verse, Apostle James attempts to define what a true religion is in the eyes of God. Religion here means the external patterns of behavior connected with religious belief. It means the outer expression of belief in worship and service rather than the doctrines believed. Thus, religion has to do with our worship manifested in the outward through our acts of service!
So, how can we really worship God through our outward acts of worship? True religion as an outpouring of our genuine faith in God is an expression of how we relate to God and others. James stresses concern for widows and orphans as a true measure of obedience that is pleasing to God. We should be aware that Israel was given this responsibility in the Old Testament, and it reflects the concerns of God Himself.
Before James comes around to defining true religion, he has already rebuked mere listening and not doing anything (vv. 22–25), and then he rebukes mere doing without having our inner lives changed (vv. 26–27). In keeping with his emphasis on genuine faith and its consequent good works, James offers three key aspects of pure religion:
1. Restrain our tongues from speaking evil of others,
2. Show practical concern for those in need, and
3. Keep ourselves pure from sin.
What God is looking for is the practical type of godliness which takes a compassionate interest in others and keeps our own life clean, better defined as “acts of grace and a walk of separation”. This happens when both practical love and practical holiness are evident in our lives!
Our new identity in Christ is thus evident in the way we take care of one another - reaching even to the most frail and vulnerable among us - who are most in need of our help. The way God views and defines true religion is when His character is reflected through our practical lives which are exemplified by our pure speech, pure love, and pure character. This is a lofty challenge that should guide us how to live before God and other people!