Growing Closer to God
By Stephanie Ismer
Growing Closer to God, The SeriesDepend
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. James 1:27In my last post, I focused on dependence as a way to grow closer to God. As we trust Him and watch Him work, we find peace in the knowledge that He is there and that He cares for us. An expression of the peace and contentment we feel when we are secure in God is to try to bring peace and contentment to other people — this comfort can be spiritual, emotional, or physical, but we know that it pleases God when we comfort others with the comfort He has given us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
James focuses on orphans and widows, but I think this can reasonably extend to anyone who is in genuine need. The Old Testament mentions foreigners, along with widows and orphans, as people who are under God's protection (Psalm 146:9). This goes back to dependence again. God protects those who are without help. In the ancient times, widows, orphans and sojourners (foreigners) had this in common: they had nobody in their corner. They were defenseless.
Widows were women whose husbands had died and left them alone. If she could not find another husband, or a kinsman who was willing to care for her, she was in dire straits. The same was true of parentless children. And foreigners were often rejected, unable to find work, mistrusted because they came from strange cultures with strange gods, who had perhaps been enemies of the Israelites at one time or another. Does any of this sound familiar?
If you want to understand someone intimately, there's no substitute for joining them in a cause they love. God loves to protect the defenseless. He takes it quite personally when widows and orphans and foreigners are neglected or attacked. Check out this passage from the book of Zechariah, the prophet:
And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart." But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. "As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear," says the Lord of hosts, "and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate. Zechariah 7:8-14This is sobering reminder. Our politics, our financial issues, our goals and plans, and (this is a big one) fear, are some of the excuses we use to "turn a stubborn shoulder" against the people who need help. But if we show kindness and mercy, we get the benefit and joy that comes from helping another human being, but our closeness to God will inevitably increase. There's no reason not to do everything we can to defend the defenseless among us this year.
Image Credit: Fotomovimiento; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Current-Issues | God-Father | Personal-Relationships
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