“If anyone thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 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 1:26-27)
My tongue is an untamed beast. The unbridled expressions of my heart which escape through my mouth are not usually pretty. In the last six months, I have identified a significant drift; where the words of mouth were once gospel-centered and edifying, they now lack joy and are void of Christ-focused truths. Instead of encouraging friends with the joy of being in love with Christ, my only hope of encouragement is in the rebellious hope of a crazy stunt to come. This unbridling of my tongue reveals only one thing: a heart devoid of joy rooted in Gospel-truth.
C.S Lewis wrote, “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who do the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is because Christians have ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective.” Perhaps there was once a time where I thought more of the next world, but that time is long past, as the thoughts of my daily existence revolve around just that: my daily existence. Where should I ride my bike next? What car would I like to drive? How can I improve my volleyball skills? The closest my thoughts come to the other world is my thoughts of school and missions. For even in my apathy to the Gospel, I still look towards school with the hope of one day teaching high school on the mission field for MK students.
The ESV Study Bible which I’ve been reading lately includes the following note on this passage: “This section on obedience concludes with three characteristics of the one whose religion is pure and undefiled, that is, one who “does” the word. First, he refuses self-deception and bridles his tongue, which means he keeps a tight rein on his speech like a bridle controlling a horse. Second, he shows mercy and love to the oppressed. Orphans and widows were frequent OT examples of this because of their particularly helpless state. Third, he remains unstained from the world; James uses the sacrificial language of “the lamb without blemish” to describe the pure religious person.”
Were this a test, I fear I would receive an F. My tongue is unbridled, I’m no specimen of compassion, and there is nothing “without blemish” about me. What I find most incredible though, is that this is not just me. There is not one who can show himself blameless before God. Apart from the grace of God, we would all fail this test. Religion, as seen by God, is not something that I can attain on my own, but rather an outworking of the grace and love found in the blood of the only true Lamb without blemish. If this were not true, I would be without hope. Yet, I see in Scripture a God who pursues rebels and redeems even the prodigal son.
I am tempted to end here. Were this the end of my blog post, I could leave without commitment or accountability. The words typed here might sound good, but without practical application, would be completely useless. Thus, I must ask those of you who know me to keep me accountable. Ask me how I’m doing and refuse to be content with “good” as an answer. It is my prayer that this post would mark the beginning of a journey: a journey of gospel-centered thinking and living where the life and death of Christ would meet and transform my daily life from work, to school, and even volleyball.