Religion is getting a bad name these days.
Some like Dawkins, Harris, and Hutchens argue that religion is useless, dangerous, and that humanity would be better off with the elimination of religion. Obviously they only cite material that supports their claim. Unfortunately they do not have to work hard to come up with ammunition.
But if religion has been around for a long, long, long time; and if it shows no signs of disappearing, then by what criteria does one judge the usefulness or purity of a religion?
James the brother of Jesus puts forth this visible criteria: Religion innocent and untainted before God our Father is: to take care of the orphans and widows distressed in our world; to keep oneself untainted by the world.
Who would be opposed to religious people who took care of the poor, the abused and broken, the orphan and widow? Who would despise religious people who walked in humility; being honest, generous, faithful, forgiving, strong, wise, patient?
What is religion that matters? Religion that produces in people the kind of words and works of God the Father and Creator: all that he produced was good, and all that he gives his children is just enough. Religion would oppose evil and overcome it with good; Religion would produce shalom and truth, not pursue it at the price of the shalom and truth of others. Religion would not hoard and condemn, but respond to others as Jesus did upon this earth.
Religious people who follow Jesus ought to reconsider how loud they want to confess their faith, maybe they ought to first produce the fruit of faith before they say anything else. James does point out that a loose tongue leads a heart astray; loose lips reveal a person who understands little and understands themself less.
So for those of you out there like me who are leary of being labeled religious, consider another alternative: pray for wisdom that God might direct you (me) towards orphans and widows, and then that he would give us wisdom on what to do with who we see.
Oh, and maybe James and Jesus care for widows so much is because of the hardship they endured when Mary's husband died. Sometimes personal experience can soften a heart. Instead of waiting for tragedy to strike your heart, pray for the Spirit's wisdom and courage instead.
Check out this link www.sempervita.org/2007/07 to read of a Jesus follower loving widows in Burundi.