Monday, December 3, 2012

Practicing Pure Religion in Nursing Homes

I am sure most Christians have read James 1:27 which says that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.“ We all probably know what keeping ourselves unstained or undefiled as some translations put it but what about the “pure religion” part? In the first place, keeping ourselves unstained can mean many things. Thankfully Jesus’ righteousness is imputed toward us, on our account, in our behalf (Rom 3:26) made possible only because “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
Pure Religion is….
So how does God the Father view pure religion? It may not be what we think it is. It is not about acting pious, having good behavior, having perfect church attendance or always saying the right thing. No, love is active, deed-oriented, action-induced, and results-driven. And this is where the nursing home comes in. At one Bible study I asked the residents, “How many you are today orphans and widows?” Every single one of the hands went up except an elderly man. He said that he was a widower. I could say that James might include that pure religion is visiting the orphans, widows, and widowers and still be right. Just think of this…everyone in almost every nursing home are orphans and widows or widowers because their parents have long since died and most living there have outlived their spouses. Even for those who still have their spouses, their parents are likely deceased. In the facility that I go to, about 3 in 10 residents there have no family to visit them and no friends who come to see them which means that they are exceedingly lonely.
Society seems to think of these precious people as castoffs or as having no more use in society but that could not be further from the truth. These men and women (a few are not that old and simply disabled) are so lonely and seeking meaningful conversations. They have so much of their life to share and so much wisdom to offer but no one to share it with. What a waste. So many of these men and women are lonely and so I see why Paul says we should “weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15) because this is how we “contribute to the needs of the saints” (Rom 12:13) and we can be “the one who does acts of mercy” (Rom 12:8).
This is truly a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1). My problem with being a living sacrifice is that I keep crawling off the altar. Talk is cheap but deeds is true love. The Apostle John said that we should “not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Love is a verb…it’s what you do, not what you say. I am not saying that words are not important but actions always speak a lot louder than words. My children often never really heard my words because my actions were drowning them out.


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