Balanced Spirituality According to St. James

Posted: August 25, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Discipleship/Sanctification, James, Missional Thought, Social Issues

James 1:27 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.

I am preaching on this text this coming Lord’s Day (8/31/09). After reading Matt Harmon’s ( Grace Theological Seminary) “ten theses for further discussion” from his talk about the relationship between the kingdom of God and social justice (here and here), I got to thinking some more about these issues and I noticed how much it has in touch with the epistle of James, which I am preaching through right now.

Pastor John Svendson from El Segundo First Baptist Church, who was a mentor to me of sorts in my formative years of theological training, outlined James 1:27 as follows:

“Real Religion”: A Social Dimension (looking outward Jm 1:27a) and A Spiritual Dimension (looking inward Jm 1:27b)

I am going to use this brief concise outline in my own preaching of this text. It sums up well the entire book of James, which is primarily concerned about our outward action as a reflection of inward piety. American Protestantism has usually gravitated towards one end of the spectrum, either being very engaged socially at the expense of orthodoxy or being very engaged to personal sanctification within an orthodox paradigm, albeit disengaged from social action beyond one’s family and local Church community. It is easy to say that we want to live in the middle: to be faithful to Scripture in personal piety and in social engagement, but much more difficult to live out…it requires tension, which most of us don’t like. James hits us on the head when he tells us that our “religion” is pure only when we do BOTH: care for widows and orphans and those who are afflicted AND “to keep oneself unstained from the world”. The challenge is to engage the world and yet remain undefiled by it. Christians love to escape from the world or find themselves all to comfortable in the world. Let us embrace the tension that Scripture gives us.

If you don’t care for those who are “afflicted”, then your orthodoxy means nothing…your religion is worthless.

If you don’t care for Scripture and personal piety, then your social engagement, though noble, proceeds from moral and epistemological bankruptcy. It is deficient.

Let us tend to both (caring for the afflicted and personal piety), knowing that each is at stake in the other!!!

  1. Scott Kistler says:

    “Let us tend to both (caring for the afflicted and personal piety), knowing that each is at stake in the other!!!”

    That’s a great way to put it, Rick. I really like how you showed their mutual dependence.

  2. […] of evangelism and social action Posted on August 25, 2009 by Scott Kistler My friend Rick Hogaboam reflects on Matt Harmon’s theses that I commented on here.  Rick explores James 1:27 : […]

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