by Stan Mitchell
What is true religion?
Religion means many things in many places. In Tibet, it means prayer wheels and monks in snowy monasteries. In Salt Lake City it means a choir raising its magnificent sounds to heaven. In Zambia, it means drums and dancing far into the night.
But what is true religion? Some equate true religion with change. Change the songs, they say, and dim the lights. Worship must become more lively and entertaining. We must “connect” with the public.
Others equate true religion with the old ways. Worship must be staid and reverent, they say. We must retain Elizabethan English in our prayers and Bible translations. The only legitimate hymns are those that are printed in a hymnbook.
So what is true religion? James tells us: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the father is this: to care for orphans and widows, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
James’ use of the words “pure and undefiled” implies that much that passes for true religion is impure and soiled. Are we substituting gimmicks and activity for true religion?
He also reminds us that true religion is “before God.” In other words, it matters little what religion means in London, or Lusaka, or Salt Lake. Far more important than “connecting” with people is the matter of connecting with the God we serve.
True religion is whatever God says it is. Love the destitute and the despised, he says, and don’t become soiled by the grime and grit of the world. So this morning, wipe away a child’s tear. Hold the hand of an elderly person. And determine not to let the world pollute your soul.
That is true religion. God says so.
by Stan Mitchell