Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. ~ James 1:27
I’ve recently been thinking about this scripture. As I work in Russia, I am called to minister the love of God especially to orphans and widows in their distress. So, I know that this is part of the pure faith that God has called me to.
But, there is more to being spiritually pure than serving the neediest among us; God wants us to avoid the pollution of the world. To please God and live by His Spirit, to be the people God has created us to be, it is necessary that we keep ourselves from being stained by the world. Other translations say that we are to avoid the pollution of the world. We are to actively turn from the ungodliness of the world. God does not want us to be defiled.
I think we all know some elements of what it means to be stained by the world, but we are often blind to the cultural pressures that are exerting force on our souls.
As I get a little distance from America, I can see that American culture presses people toward self-gratification and impatience. I was quite blind to it for many years, and now I’m seeing a little more clearly how that terrible, ungodly, force affects people in America–and many are not aware of how strong that force is. When we live in a culture, we can become inured to the cultural forces around us–they feel very “natural,” and we think that they are neutral. So to Americans (and myself) I say, begin to fight against self-gratification, make choices based on self-control and stewardship. Pray for understanding and strength to fight against it.
How else does the world pollute a person? What should you avoid so that your spirit will be able to abide with Christ in purity? Here’s a list that comes to my mind–yours may be different.
Television: TV is so ever-present that we often don’t judge the content of the programming. Most TV programming is completely Godless–it does not help us grow closer to Christ; many TV shows will at best distract us from our spiritual walk; at worst they will lead us into impurity. I tend to dissipate my life when the TV is around. O, how many hours have I completely wasted while sitting in front of the TV? This is part of what the Bible calls dissipation–our lives just dissipate without having any effect or growth as we sit mindlessly in front of the tube. Avoid the pollution of TV. “If your eye (cathode) causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away.” An entertaining TV show is not worth the purity of your heart.
Gossip: gossip pollutes the soul. Don’t talk about people behind their back, don’t revel in, and be entertained by, the troubles of other people, don’t judge them by speaking badly or carelessly of them. Gossip pollutes relationships at the heart level. Bless everyone, speak well of everyone, pray for and bless even your enemies. The world loves a gossip, and many people make their living by gossiping (TV shows, magazines, newspapers columns, etc.)
Advertising: this can be one of the most pure forms of worldly pollution I can think of. Most, but not all, advertising is designed to appeal to your passions/vices/weakness/lusts so that someone can profit from your desire for gratification/love/fame/respect. Avoid the lies of advertising, don’t let the temptations of advertising grip your soul. Advertising is often entertaining, but it does not have your soul’s interest at heart. It’s there to get your money.
Certain styles of music may pollute your soul; radio programs can stain us; greed for better cars/houses/possessions will pollute you; conversations, websites, and careers can also stain us. The list goes on. People will be affected differently, so it’s not a matter of being legalistic–God knows the heart, and we cannot judge people’s hearts. At the same time, some worldly things are not profitable for anyone to embrace–they are not of God and will lead to sin; they are polluted and they will defile us.
What is on your list? What is the Lord calling you to lay down so that you can have pure and undefiled religion? Do it. Avoid the pleasant pollution of the world and live to Christ. His ways will bring you true peace, purity and joy.