look after orphans and widows

Look after orphans and widows in their distress

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Nine years ago, when my family and I first moved to France we went through a very traumatic time. I can honestly say that it felt like just about everything was going wrong. We hit one disaster after another which affected our family life, our living conditions, our finances and health very deeply. I must admit that I struggled with my faith in those days and in believing that God was good and loved me. But on one of my daily lament to God, I heard this very clear voice in my head telling me: “I have given you everything you wanted, you asked for a husband, I gave you a husband, you wanted a family, I gave you children, you wanted to move to France, you now live in France, now it is my turn”.

I have spent most of my life since that day trying to work out what “my turn” meant, but I still struggle almost everyday to remember that my salvation was not just about me, it was about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Church, the lost, the disenfranchised, the needy, the sick, the weak and the defenceless.

The events of the last few weeks in the United States of America, the senseless murder of Georges Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many others before them has forced me once again to face my failings in putting God and others before my own concerns and comfort.

I have had to examine my own heart and my own prejudices. I had to speak to my children to make sure that the next generation does better than we have. I have read countless comments on social media condemning the protesters for trying to make white people feel guilty for their privilege. I have heard many Christians declaring that we shouldn’t talk about race in Church and criticising their pastors if they did raise their voices against racism and prejudice during their sermons.

And it got me thinking: so much of what we hear in Church is about us as individuals. It’s about making us feel and live better lives. It’s about overcoming our own pain, discomfort, guilt and shortcomings. I am not belittling the importance of that message, however, if we never go beyond simply focussing on ourselves, we cannot grow as Christians.

A grownup Christian looks after widows and orphans, as James 1:27 tells us:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

As Christians we must be at the forefront of the battle against prejudice and injustice. We must be seen and heard crying for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their gender, the colour of their skin, their nationality, their religion or denomination, their disability, their socio-economic background, or sexual orientation. We have been commissioned by God to do so and we must make this a Church priority. This is how we will be spreading the message of God’s love to the world (see also this blog post).

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 

You cannot love and discriminate at the same time. We must show love to all. Why is it so much more prevalent in church to forgive a murderer than to accept a gay man for who he is?

In Galatians 3:28, it is written: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are all created equal, image bearers of God and it is about time this becomes a reality in all Christian churches.

We cannot continue to stay within the comfort of our little group of Christian friends, talking about comfortable issues that make us feel better about ourselves. We must examine our own guilt in fostering and maintaining prejudice and injustice in the world, repent and recognise the equal rights of ALL the children of God without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

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