There's an elephant in the living room. Only it isn't an elephant, and it isn't in the living room. It's a golden calf, and it's in our baptismal font and our pulpit and our sanctuary and our Sunday School class and our Bible study group and everywhere else we worship and serve God, because, truth be told, it's in our hearts.
To put it bluntly: We, the church of Jesus Christ, have an idol.
It's called ministry.
Yes, ministry: busying ourselves with the things of God. Granted, ministry seems very un-idol-like. But then, subtlety is the hallmark of seductive sins. It has been the devil's most effective stratagem since the beginning of time: Get the sin to seem no sin. Better, get it to seem like service to God. Better still, get it to be service to God. Sins don't get more subtle than that, nor does idolatry seem like idolatry when we're busy doing things God instructed us to do. It seems like true Christianity, like pure and undefiled religion.
But is it? Even ministry can be idolatry when it supplants what God most wants from us. What is the acid test of true Christianity, of pure and undefiled religion? What does it look like?
Pure and Undefiled Religion
We are not left guessing. In James 1:27, God tells us what “pure and undefiled religion” looks like: “Visit[ing] orphans and widows in their distress.” That's divine shorthand for serving “the least of these” with sacrificial agape love. Acts of compassion, exemplified by coming to the aid of suffering women and children, are the distinguishing marks of true Christianity.
The American church, by stunning contrast, has been characterized the past 40 years—ever since Roe v. Wade—by the deliberate and thoroughgoing neglect of 55 million orphans in exquisite distress. One has to wonder if the cold indifference shown by the church to these orphans could have been any more absolute had salvation itself depended on completely ignoring them.
Yes, orphans, in the truest sense. These little victims, before having their lives snuffed out in abortion, were emphatically orphans, for there are two ways a child becomes an orphan: One is to lose his parents; the other is for his parents to abandon him. It doesn't take a Solomon to see here the applicability of James 1:27.
Yet for four decades the church has fastidiously refused to muster aid on behalf of these little people and against one of the most barbaric and inhumane practices imaginable. Not only has the church opted not to visit these orphans in their distress, but by refusing to voice any significant public moral objection, the church has actually gone to the opposite extreme and given tacit sanction to their cruel mutilation and murder.
And this comports with James 1:27, how?
No one will answer that question because there is no answer. We are wholly without excuse. We have ignored not only the soundless cries of these abandoned orphans, but more ominously, the unequivocal declarations of our God and Father as well.
This raises the additional and perhaps more deeply soul-probing question: If pure and undefiled religion in God's sight is to visit orphans in their distress, then just what kind of religion has the church been practicing since 1973? What kind of religion is it whose defining characteristic is the refusal to visit tens of millions of orphans in their inconceivably great distress?
Yes, defining characteristic. A defining characteristic is the feature most notable and distinctive about a thing. A hundred years from now history will remember us not for our missions or evangelism or our ministry, much less for our fidelity to the Bible. It will remember us for our breathtakingly thorough disregard of orphans in their distress.
Abortion continues to flourish largely because of us. We could end abortion overnight—if we really wanted to. The present generation of Christians will no more be lauded for its service to Christ than would a perverted pastor who preached spellbinding sermons and won thousands of souls by day, but committed pedophilia against a four-year-old child by night.
We will not be remembered for the religious busyness we called ministry—in the final analysis, this amounts to so much window-dressing in the sight of God—but for refusal to give Christ the one thing He wants in evidence of true love for Him: that we would love our neighbor as ourselves.
The logic is inescapable: If pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God is to give compassionate, sacrificial, agape love to abandoned children, then American Christianity is grotesquely impure and defiled—like a river of life befouled by the corpses of too many children for even the angels to count.
* * *
Solomon: The Mother's Day Ruminations of an Abandoned Son
Call me her son, but not my mother deem
The one who gave me life enough to taste
The barest part of God's ecstatic dream,
Then rid me from her womb with wicked haste.
“Considered innocent till guilty proved”
So said the law she praised, yet gave me death
With no defense, who not so much as moved
A tiny fist or raised his voice in threat.
She thought it wisdom plotting my demise
And naming “Orphan,” by default, her son;
But she by murder made that son more wise;
For cenotaphs shall dub him “Solomon,”
Who, like the Sage, is sure a mother true
Would not consent to cut her child in two.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Rolley Haggard is a feature writer for BreakPoint.